Pregnancy & Birth

The 5 Essential Newborn Items


It seems like everyone I know is pregnant, so baby gear has been on my mind. If you’ve ever tried to put together a baby registry, you understand the overwhelming array of baby products being peddled as “necessary.” (Wipe warmers? really?!)  The truth is, the list of things your newborn really needs is a short one: Milk and Snuggles.

Because every baby is different, there’s no way to know what’s going to be “essential” for you and your baby until he/she arrives. My advice is to get versatile items that you truly need: a place for baby to sleep, something to carry baby in (other than your arms, of course), a car seat, diapers, a few items of clothing, and, if you will need to pump, a breast pump and bottles. Seriously, that’s it.

1. A place for baby to sleep: If you plan to co-sleep, this will be your bed. Even if co-sleeping sounds dreadful to you now, it may be more appealing once baby is here (especially if it’s the only way to get your newborn to sleep). But, it’s nice to have a place for baby to sleep for daytime naps. This could be as simple as a blankie on the floor, but if you want to get fancy, I recommend a pack n’ play  because it’s such a versatile item. If you don’t want to go the pack n’ play route, another good option is a co-sleeper bassinet that attaches to the side of your bed.

2. Something to carry baby in: You don’t need a stroller right away (or maybe at all). My 9 month old hasn’t used one yet. But please, please buy yourself a baby sling! I love the Moby wrap  for tiny babies and the Maya wrap for later. Most babies love being close to mama in the sling and you won’t be dragging a cumbersome stroller all over creation. Your baby can also breastfeed and nap in a sling which makes it super versatile!

3. Car Seat. Essential. And if you have a hospital birth, you can’t take baby home without one. After trying it both ways, I recommend getting a car seat carrier that clicks into a base rather than making do with a convertible car seat for newborn through toddler. There were so many times when taking my son out of the convertible car seat woke him up and so many times when my daughter has slept through multiple errands in the carrier while I’ve said a little prayer of thankfulness for its inventors.

4. Diapers. You don’t have to make the decision to use cloth or disposables right away. I know parents dead set on disposables become cloth diaper fanatics and friends who stocked up on cloth and then realized it wasn’t for them. But you will need something for the first few days (unless you practice EC). And no, you don’t need to buy any sort of special changing table. Some drawers or shelves to stock diapers in will do just fine.

5. Clothing: Don’t stock up on tiny newborn clothes! I’ve had too many friends birth babies that have outgrown newborn sizes in utero. And even if your baby does fit into newborn onesies on day one, he/she will graduate to 0-3 month size shockingly fast. All you need is a few onesies, because let’s be honest, baby is just going to throw up and poop all over them. Also, it’s likely that you will receive plenty of teensy clothes as gifts. (I haven’t bought one clothing item for our baby girl thanks to the generosity of friends who have passed on the clothes their babies have outgrown.)

Nursing gear: I didn’t include nursing items in the five essentials because what products you need and whether you need any will differ according to your situation. It’s difficult to tell until you begin this journey with your baby. With my firstborn, I was working full-time so a breast pump and bottles were essential. The second time around, I’m practicing ecological breastfeeding which emphasizes no separation of mama and baby. So, I haven’t even needed to bust out the bottles (which is a mercy, because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s cleaning those pesky bottles). My advice: wait and see. Your lactation consultant will be able to recommend items if you need them.

Add a few blankies to that list (they can double as burp clothes) and you’re set! For a detailed breakdown of baby gear, here’s a great post!

What did you purchase for your baby that ended up being unnecessary? What items did you find to be essential? Anything I should have added to the list?

You Might Also Like

  • Sarah O
    August 7, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    The one thing I’d add to this list is blankets you love. Here’s my post on a similar subject: I loved the Aden + Anais blankets (still do with my almost 7 month old) – they worked as swaddling blankets, sun blockers, nursing covers, and so forth. Definitely a worthwhile investment. For those that sew – you can easily make your own as well. =)

    • Haley
      August 8, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      I’ve heard of those blankets but never tried them! I’ll have to check them out. Thanks, Sarah 🙂

  • Jenny B
    August 8, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    I also would throw in a couple lifesavers for us: Aden and Anais swaddle blankets (but check size when ordering…the ones at Target, Buy Buy Baby, and Babies R Us are actually a smaller size, and don’t last as long); The Fisher Price Rock N Play sleeper…best sleeper ever! It keeps babies at the perfect angle to help with digestion and any reflux issues…among my circle of friends, babies sleep much longer in this!

    • Haley
      August 8, 2012 at 1:57 PM

      A second vote for Aden and Anais! My babies definitely struggle with reflux so next time around (God willing) I’ll have to check out that sleeper. My babies like to sleep in a wrap or in a bouncer for naps (so they can be more vertical, it seems to help with the reflux), but I haven’t found a bouncer that I love. Thanks!

  • Cassandra
    August 8, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    I’d have to go against the recommendation for swaddling blankets, because as Haley mentions, you’ll never know what you need until baby is here. As with any new parent, we were gifted a ton of blankets, none of which fit my 22″ long newborn for swaddling, and she wouldn’t even tolerate being wrapped in one after a couple days anyhow. Between myself, my husband and the occasional visitor, she was almost always in someone’s arms (I recall “Would you just put that baby down?” from my parents – no, I won’t, because I WANT to hold her) and didn’t need to be swaddled even if she would have tolerated it.

    I’d also give the flip side to wanting to use a car seat carrier. I do not regret one bit having a convertible seat that forced me to get her out and carry (wear) her, even those times when she was woken up and screamed bloody murder. She had to get into the flow of our lives and we had to adjust our lives to her, but that connected us and helped create a very strong bond. If there were times she was extra grumpy, we just didn’t do errands or made other arrangements. The point was to learn how to tune into her moods and what she could tolerate, which meant if we went anywhere or did anything, I had to be in physical contact with her, listening to her breath, watching her face, feeling her muscle tense or release. If she wasn’t tolerating it, we adjusted our activities to suit her, but at the same time, because we were so tuned in, she could tolerate more than other babies her age.

    Overall I like this list because I feel like new parents fill their lives up with stuff that adds to the overwhelming aspect of having a baby. They think it’s going to make it easier, but it’s usually just a big hassle. And on the same line of thought how I approached the carseat and babywearing is that a lot of new parents also tend to either fight parenthood by forcing a baby to fit into exactly how they used to live, carrying a baby around like a noisy accessory, or they throw themselves to the other extreme and allow a baby to overtake everything in their lives. There needs to be balance and having a ton of baby stuff impedes finding that balance.

    • Haley
      August 8, 2012 at 2:26 PM

      So true that you never know what your baby will like or need til they get here. Swaddling was definitely a lifesaver for us (especially for my son who had major sleep issues) because it helped them sleep significantly longer stretches than when they weren’t swaddled. Didn’t matter if my babes were snuggled up with me in my bed or not, the swaddling was a must. Every baby is so different. It really is astounding.

      And I think you’re so right about the plethora of “stuff” making parenthood just more stressful than it needs to be. Keeping it simple does give me a calmer attitude that encourages bonding with my bebes. But especially having two now, I loooooved my car seat carrier. It just doesn’t seem fair to make the older child homebound because the baby needs to nap nor is it appealing to care for an exhausted fussy baby as well as a wild and crazy toddler when we’re out and about. The car seat carrier definitely made that so much easier for us in those first few weeks (especially since for my asthmatic toddler, dr.’s appointments etc, were necessary outings and not ones that we could postpone for a later date when the baby was rested). But I see where you’re coming from and it sounds like the convertible car seat was perfect for your family! 🙂

    • Jenny B
      August 12, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      Good point about not knowing what Baby will like! Many babies enjoy swaddling as it creates that womblike experience for them (going on the theory that the first twelve weeks are actually the fourth trimester for baby). What I love about the Aden and Anais blankets are how versatile they are- you can use them as a super breathable/lightweight nursing cover, a stroller blanket, tummy time blanket, etc! I even used one between the baby and the car seat (super thin!) to wick away some moisture for my furnace of a baby that overheat in his seat.

      • Stephanie
        August 13, 2012 at 1:11 AM

        And they are freaking cute! Their patterns are amazing!

  • Molly Makes Do
    August 8, 2012 at 3:44 AM

    Good and concise list! A resource for food, a place to sleep, the basics of clothing to wear, a place “sit” or to be carried, and car safety – really the only things you need immediately for a new baby!

    • Haley
      August 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM

      Thanks, Molly! 🙂

  • Jenn
    August 18, 2012 at 12:03 AM

    As you mentioned, you never know what your particular nursing needs are going to be, but I will mention a product I wish I had known about earlier! Motherlove nipple cream. It is SO much better than lanolin and was the only thing that soothed/cured my nipples which were cracked and bleeding for a full 2 months. It’s pricy stuff, but lasts forever and is worth its weight in gold!

  • Nae
    September 13, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    In the past two years, it seems my friends have made a silent pact to procreate. All of the sudden everyone is expecting…and expecting again! I was always shocked and appalled at the vast amount of stuff on baby registries. Is all this stuff really neccessary? I decided it wasn’t and almost never buy off the registry. Almost all of my friends get a few things that I think are essential.
    I love battery operated or mouth operated nasal aspirators. I work in the medical field and the first thing I do when a snotty nosed, croupy baby is brought to me is suction their nose. They don’t like it for the split second that its happening but they are such a happier baby afterwards! There are some vesions of the nasal aspirator that is powered by the parent’s sucking and contains a one way valve so there is no risk of getting the mucos in your mouth but most parents are still squeamish about sucking the snot out of their infants nose!
    I also love Moby wraps and encourage my friends to use them, mostly because I think it looks so uncomfortable lugging around a baby carrier and not just for the parents! Usually that thing is banging into mom or dads legs or against tables. That can’t be pleasant for baby!
    I also love a multi use thermometer. I usually get these for new parents. The one I love not only takes baby’s temp but also takes the temp of bathwater and milk. One friend of mine is very concrete and loves numbers so when warming up breastmilk or bathwater she wanted to see the actual temp instead of going by feel. She loved this!

    • Haley
      September 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM

      These are great suggestions. I just discovered the battery operated nasal aspirators after my second child was born and I wish I’d known about them for my first! They are miraculous. I love the Moby, too. Thank you!

  • Samantha
    July 11, 2013 at 2:56 AM

    I am totally late to finding this post, but thank you SO much for providing such awesome advice on what to have/what you probably won’t need. I am hoping to become pregnant sometime next year, which I know is way into the future, but I wanted to start planning for baby (or babies; twins run in my family like nobody’s business) now. We don’t own a house and probably won’t for a while and I know that space/money will be tight, so having a simple guide like this makes me feel at such ease! It’s not as traditional, but I wonder if you have any thoughts on baby showers after the baby is born. Do you think it’s a good idea or should one have the baby shower before (so you have time to sort through the all the love people shower you with)?

    • Stephanie
      July 11, 2013 at 3:20 PM

      I think a shower after the baby is born is a great idea! In the South we call them a Sip & See. It’s just like a baby shower/mother blessing but you get to show off your baby too. If you do a Sip & See then you could do a true mother blessing when you are pregnant that is not about gifts for the baby but honoring your rite of passage as a mother.

    • Haley
      July 13, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      I think you can go either way, Samantha! I prefer showers before baby’s arrival so you can have everything you need before baby arrives, but I’ve attended showers for mamas after baby is born and it is so fun to get to see and snuggle the new little one 🙂

  • Milagros
    July 2, 2015 at 1:36 PM

    As far as essentials for me, I tell all my new Mommy friends that a zipadee-zip is a must-have too. I used it for night time, nap time and feeding time too. My son loved it and it saved me time, since swaddling takes longer than just putting him in it.

  • Melissa Cunha Lima
    August 1, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    those 5 items should definitely need for a newborn baby. Thanks for share…….

  • Natasha Wilton
    August 2, 2016 at 10:49 AM

    Wow, thanks for all the great tips. I wish I could give you a hug in real life and come live with me because of you’re story I have read your message and well I had a big heart felt for you.

  • Melissa Cunha Lima
    August 8, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    Those items should always essential for a newborn baby. Probably the best idea on here is ”A place for baby to sleep”. others are regular.Hopefully, I got something special here. I will show that soon.

  • Melissa Cunha Lima
    August 10, 2016 at 1:45 AM

    well done ideas . Thanks for share.