I’m 37 weeks pregnant with my second child, a baby gear expert, and a serial researcher.
I hate to admit that I’ve spent hundreds of hours pouring over gear, evaluating features, reading, writing and compiling reviews, and then, actually using gear with our daughter, Poppy, on all of our adventures.
And oh, on adventures we’ve gone….
- Like that time we took our 8-week old preemie (adjusted age = 2 weeks!) on a 10-day, 3-state, 25-hour road trip complete with camping, hiking, and only one Airbnb.
- Or that time we took our baby on a 12-hour flight to Aruba and then Bonaire (and had a medical mishap on the plane)
- Or even all those dozens of times that I took off on work trips, alone without my daughter, but still needed to bring baby and nursing gear with me.
Also check out: Your Guide for Flying with Breastmilk & Getting Through TSA
So I wanted to put together a guide to new baby essentials: what you really need for your baby, to help all of you first-time parents plan what to add to your registry, what to buy, and what to avoid spending your hard-earned money on.
After reading through hundreds of comments from parents who’ve been there on what their can’t-live-without baby products were, this is your ultimate guide.
New Baby Essentials: Here’s What You Really Need
In the era of COVID-19 and new parents missing out on age-old traditions like baby showers and gifting in general, you may not get as set up from your friends and family as you expected for your little one.
Or maybe you just didn’t plan on having a baby shower to begin with (we didn’t!).
Or maybe you’re just trying to figure out what to register for (hint: you’ll probably end up getting a bunch of stuff you didn’t register for anyway, like teeny, tiny, impractical baby shoes that won’t ever touch the foot of your bambino).
Either cloth or disposable.
No brainer. Even if you’re planning on trying to toilet train your baby from day one (a la elimination communication, which, by the way, data says doesn’t work), you’ll need diapers, and a lot of them if you’re going the disposable route.
A pack of 136 Huggies costs about $40 USD at Walmart, and you can plan on your baby going through around 8 per day so that’d last about ½ a month.
You’re looking at a bit more if you want biodegradable diapers. Our top pick (Eco by Naty) runs at $32 for 102 diapers.
If you’re planning on using disposable diapers and registering, you’d be wise to register for diapers in different sizes (word to the wise: skip newborn size).
If you’re cloth diapering, you’ll need 12-16 quality cloth diapers & inserts. These are hard to register for as most big box stores (and even Amazon) lack in the cloth diapering department, so you may want to skip registering for these and just shell out for them yourself.
Also check out: Cloth Diapers vs Disposables: The Age Old Debate
Even if you decide to cloth diaper, you’ll probably want to use disposable wet wipes, at least some of the time. With a three-year-old and one on the way, this is the one product we’ve used since her birth that is still going strong.
You need somewhere for your babe to sleep.
It doesn’t have to be a standalone bassinet. It could be a travel bassinet, a pack and play, or whatever you want. Just make sure it’s safety rated for overnight infant sleep, and plenty portable because you’ll need to shuttle it between rooms at the very least.
We used the bassinet that came with our Uppababy Vista with Poppy as it was rated for sleep, and it worked great because if she was sleeping and I wanted to get out on a walk, I could just throw the bassinet on the stroller stand and head out with her.
We thought we were one and done, so we sadly sold our stroller system before I got pregnant, but we got a Phil & teds bassinet for baby #2.
#4. Baby Carrier
At first, you’ll need a carrier for wee ones (like a sling, wrap, or an infant carrier), but a carrier like the Ergobaby will do the trick.
5. Diaper Bag
We still use ours today with a three-year-old. I recommend a neutral color that both parents won’t be embarrassed to carry around. I’m obsessed with our bag and we bring it everywhere. I recommend a backpack diaper bag,
6. Change Pad
Check to see if the diaper bag you chose comes with a (waterproof) change pad. Ours did, so we didn’t have to buy a separate one. Until we lost it, and then we had to buy a second one!
8. Noise Machine
Our must-haves for baby were heavily-weighted toward the products that would facilitate sleep.
It seemed to have worked; Poppy started sleeping through the night at 4 months and has continued to do so well into her toddlerhood. She’s also a napper and still clocks in around a 2-hour nap every day now that she’s 3.
The noise machine was key.
9. Grooming Kit
You need some supplies to groom your little one within the first few weeks of being born. We were shocked as to how quickly our daughter developed a hangnail that required clippers and a steady hand to remove at only a few days old.
Luckily, most stores will have baby grooming kits that come with nail clippers, nail scissors, a gentle comb, and all the necessities.
Bonus points for a NoseFrida: a section for your baby’s nasal passages that sounds gross but is a must-have for many parents.
Registering for, or snapping up at least one swaddle is wise.
You could use a muslin swaddle blanket, but if you’re anything like us, it took a solid few weeks to get the hang of folding a blanket into a proper swaddle, so you may want to just get a velcro swaddle.
11. Feeding Gear
Fed is best. But to feed your little one you’ll need some gear.
If you plan on nursing, you will probably want to snap up:
- A nursing pillow
- Lanolin or nipple balm
- Healthy, filling snacks (for you)
- Nursing bras
- A nice scarf or nursing cover (optional)
- A hand breast pump.
- Bottle brush
- Drying rack
If you’re planning on combo feeding (ie breastfeeding but also offering a bottle), you’ll need everything from the nursing list, and the formula feeding list.
Exclusive Pumping or Expressed Breastmilk
If you’ll be offering your baby expressed breastmilk, trust me on this one: you’ll want to invest in:
- A good-quality double electric breast pump
- A hands-free pumping bra
- Everything from the formula feeding list (besides formula)
- Lanolin or nipple balm.
I pumped over 100,000 ml of breastmilk over 1,000 sessions of pumping (while also nursing my daughter for at least half of her feeds). I used the Medela Freestyle and it worked great.
Choosing a breast pump comes down to your specific situation, and they all have different pros and cons (trust me, I’ve used more than half a dozen).
Even if you fear nipple confusion and plan on avoiding getting your kid hooked on the binky, having one on hand is a good idea.
Even if you have no beef with pacifiers, most babies tend to have strong preferences as to which kind they’ll take, so don’t overinvest in this area until you know your baby!
Many babies love the Nuk, others won’t touch anything but a Wubbanub, and sometimes just the generic paci that the hospital sends you home with will work.
13. Car Seat
If you drive, you’ll need a car seat. Specifically a bucket seat, typically until your baby is over 20 pounds (though you can leave them in this seat until closer to 30 as long as it’s still safe and comfortable).
You can get this used as long as it’s not expired and hasn’t been in any accidents, in which case it needs to be recycled as it’s no longer deemed safe for your munchkin.
14. Zippered Sleepers
One thing you’ll be gifted a lot of, whether or not you choose to have a baby shower, is baby clothes. Who doesn’t love to buy baby clothes?
But if you’re registering for clothes, make sure you register only for sleepers with zippers. No snaps.
I repeat NO SNAPS. Snaps exist to make your life even more complicated and difficult as a new parent than it needs to be.
15. Cloth Diapers
Yes, even if you’re not cloth diapering.
These are the best burp cloths ever – absorbent, high-quality, easily washable. Register for one pack of these and you won’t regret it.
16. Sleep Sacks
Especially if you’re having a baby in the winter or you live in a colder climate, sleep sacks are life.
It’s not safe for baby to have blankets for the first year or so, so a sleep sack acts as a sort of wearable blanket that won’t flip up over baby’s face and give you a heart attack.
17. Diaper Cream
Even if you don’t have a particularly rashy baby, expect a few minor diaper rashes. Choose a cream like Aquafor that you can use too (postpartum rashes are plentiful) so it doesn't go to waste if your kiddo has good skin.
Bonus: Many parents said they loved a cream applicator brush so they didn’t have to get their fingers all messy.
18. Baby Monitor
Ideally a portable, wifi-enabled video monitor so you can put your mind at ease when you’re not in the same room as your baby.
We used a Nest Cam for our baby monitor, and it was the best purchase ever. It’s still in our 3-year-olds room and we still use it daily, so we’ll have to get a new one for the baby.
19. Gentle Laundry Detergent
Baby skin is super sensitive and many infants will break out in a rash after even sitting next to highly-scented, chemical-based detergents.
Put away the Gain and pick up the Puracy, Nelly’s, or Rockin’ Green.
Also check out: Best Baby Laundry Detergent [Gentle & Non-Toxic]
20. Wet Bag
Again, even if you’re not cloth diapering, babies are messy and you’ll want one of these bad boys.
A wet bag is a perfect place to store soiled clothes, spit clothes, wet receiving blankets and anything that carries an odor for when you’re between loads of laundry.
21. Car Seat Mirror
Your baby will be rear-facing for a while, and you’ll want to be able to peek in on them, especially on longer road trips.
Bonus: Window shades. If you drive a decent amount, you’ll want to let your kiddo sleep and the sun won’t do you any favors. Suction-cup window shades are cheap and the perfect solution.
Wait and See on These Baby Items
Most of these items are ones that some parents swore by, and others didn’t use at all – even if they shelled out for them.
If you’re having a big baby shower and want to throw a few of these things on your registry, go for it!
But if you’re skipping the shower and buying things yourself, you may want to wait and see if you need these.
- Baby swing or bouncer. Some babies love these and it affords new parents time to have a shower, eat, or take a break. Others will scream bloody murder the second they’re put in one.
- A stroller. This seems like an absolute necessity, but many parents seem to have bought fancy travel systems that went unused in the garages while they just opted for their baby carriers.
- Clothes. You’ll get a ton of clothes as gifts and maybe even hand-me-downs. Rather than buy ahead of your new arrival, wait and see what sizes and items you’re missing from your baby’s wardrobe.
- High chair. It’ll be a while until your little one uses a high chair and you may find you prefer a simple clamp-on or portable high chair for use at home, anyway.
- Jumper. Jumperoos or equivalent are super cute but it’s impossible to know whether your munchkin will approve.
- Home-proofing safety gear. Don’t get me wrong, you need this, but your babe isn’t going to be mobile for at least several months post-birth so this can go on your “for later” list.
- Wipes warmer. This gets a lot of bad press but lots of parents love it. I’d just wait to see if you want it or if your little one protests with room temperature wipes.
- Bumbo. There are two schools of thought around assisted sitting for infants: one that it’s not natural and it interferes with development, and everyone else. You may really, really want a Bumbo or may find no use for it depending on which camp you’re in.
- Dock-a-tot. These are like daytime baby loungers, and keep your little one in one place when they’re not all that mobile anyway. Some people swear by ‘em, some think they’re relatively useless. Wait and see!
Our strategy with our first born, especially with some of the more expensive items on this list, has been to borrow a friend’s for a couple of days to see if my gremlin even likes it.
That way you’re not wasting your money on something that your baby may not even use.
Skip These Baby Items
Unless you're just super excited and are okay with having a surplus of a few things, these are the items that you can get away with skipping altogether.
- A fancy nursery. Your kiddo will likely be sleeping next to you in a bassinet for at least a few months so don’t stress about this if you’re still not done setting up your nursery at 37 weeks pregnant 😉
- Toys. Your baby won’t play with toys for at least a few months and even then, you’ll get a ton of toys as gifts. I’d skip this.
- Blankets. Honestly you’ll be gifted a ton of blankets, from receiving blankets to baby blankets to swaddle blankets. Wish we’d never spent money on these!
- Bibs. You’ll need bibs. But infants don’t start on solids until 4-6 months, and we found we got a ton either as gifts or in sets with clothing.
- Shoes. Adorable as they are, your munchkin won’t wear shoes. The ones that your well-meaning friends and family buy for your baby will be worn once (so you can take a picture and send it to the gift-giver) and then never again.
- Books. Books are amazing and you definitely want to read to your baby as early as you can. Raising a reader is awesome! But chances are you’ll be gifted a ton of books, and even when your baby turns into a toddler and can begin to request specific books, trust us on this one: you’ll be reading the same two over and over again.