A new baby brings a lot of change, but one thing that doesn’t have to change is your commitment to simple living. In fact, I’d advocate that it’s even more important to maintain a minimalist lifestyle when you have children—it keeps your home calm and helps you focus on what’s important. As an expecting parent, you’ll be flooded with recommendations on things that you “have to buy” in order to be prepared for baby—from the essentials [a car seat] to the unusual [a pee-pee teepee].
What does a practical parent really need for their new baby?
Truly, you can get by with very little—a safe sleeping location, a car seat, diapers, and a few outfits are all baby really needs for the first few months. There are quite a few things that will make life much easier, however.
Our second baby is due any minute now [just one week from my due date!], and this is the list we compiled to make sure we had everything we needed for his arrival. If you’re expecting a new baby, here’s a comprehensive list of what you should borrow or include on your minimalist baby registry:
Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links, which means that I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.
Crib and Mattress
A baby’s crib doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive—we purchased a basic crib from IKEA for around $100 and painted it with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint [baby safe and non-toxic] for a custom color.
We also invested in an organic crib mattress since mattresses tend to be one of the biggest offenders for off-gassing VOCs, a known contributor to SIDS.
Chair and Table
Purchase the most comfortable chair you can find, because you’re going to be sitting in it a lot. We found ours on Craigslist, painted the frame, and had it reupholstered with some cute floral fabric. Specialty nursery gliders are very expensive, so thinking outside the box with your choice [an armchair, a rocking chair, a chair you can use in another room later] can save you big.
A table or shelf nearby is a must for holding water, snacks, and reading material for those long hours of nursing and soothing.
A dresser is much more practical long-term than a changing table. Use it to keep clothes, diapers, wipes, and other baby items close by during diaper changes, and purchase a changing pad to place on top. There are hundreds of cute dressers on Craigslist that just need a coat of paint!
Swing, Bouncer, or Lounger
You definitely don’t need all of these items, but you do need at least one safe place to put the baby down within eyesight. My daughter wasn’t a huge fan of napping in her swing, but it entertained her and kept her safe for a few minutes while I cooked dinner. Luckily, th
ese items are super easy to find at secondhand stores, on Craigslist, or for free from friends looking to downsize their baby gear!
A safe car seat is a must. This is one area where I don’t mind investing a bit in order to get a top-quality product. You’ll need an infant seat and a convertible car seat, though many convertibles can accommodate infants as well if you’re willing to give up the easy portability of an infant seat [not worth waking a sleeping baby, in my opinion].
There are hundreds of strollers on the market at a variety of price points, and any of them will do the job. In order to avoid purchasing multiple strollers, we chose to invest in a stroller that was high-quality, had a good warranty, and would last us through multiple children. Make sure it’s easy to fold, easy to clean, and easy to place into the trunk of the car. If you’re a runner, you may want to consider a separate jogging stroller as well.
What We Love: UppaBaby Vista
Wrap and Baby Carrier
Babywearing is one of the most effective and convenient ways to calm and carry your baby. There are several different styles of baby carriers, and it may take some experimentation to find the one that works for you and your baby. Check Facebook for local babywearing group events where you may be able to test out different carriers before committing to one style. We loved a soft wrap for the newborn stage, and a soft structured carrier for toting a larger infant and toddler. Ensure that your soft structured carrier is designed for ergonomic leg placement–often, less expensive versions are not–and will allow you to carry the baby in multiple ways [facing out, on your back, etc].
Anything can be a diaper bag—a large purse, a tote, a backpack. Bonus features include waterproof fabric, external pockets for bottles and water, and internal pockets for organization. You can also purchase an insert to convert any existing bag into a diaper bag.
Onesies (5-7 newborn, 7-10 0-3 months)
All you really need for a newborn are a bunch of soft cotton onesies. I spent the first few months of my daughter’s life putting her into fancy stiff cotton dresses and other ridiculous clothes that made both of our lives more difficult. Save the fancy outfits for holidays and grandparent purchases. I make big babies, so I tend to buy only a few newborn outfits and more 0-3 month sized clothes.
Pants (5-7 newborn, 7-10 0-3 months)
Pants are largely optional, unless the weather is cold. They’re just another step between you and a diaper blowout.
Outerwear (1-2 newborn, 3-4 0-3 months)
Sweaters and jackets are necessary for layering if it will be cold when baby is born. You probably won’t be venturing out often in cold weather with a newborn, but stock up on a few in larger sizes so you’ll be prepared.
You’ll need a few pairs of socks to keep baby’s feet nice and cozy. Newborn shoes are adorable, but they don’t stay on.
Hats are necessary for venturing out in cold weather. If it will be warm when baby is born, you can probably skip these–you’ll also receive a few if you birth at a hospital.
Zippered Footie Pajamas (7)
These all-in-one pajamas could function as day wear for a newborn as well, but I like to change the baby into fresh pajamas after bathtime. Long sleeved cotton footie pajamas will keep a swaddled baby warm but not too hot, and zippers are a thousand times easier than snaps at 2am.
Diapers and Wipes
Babies go through a lot of diapers—upwards of 12 a day at first. Cloth diapers are making a comeback for several reasons [frugality, sustainability, baby’s health], but they can create some additional challenges. We chose to cloth diaper during the daytime and use disposables for the first couple months and at night. You could experiment with newborn size cloth diapers and different insert combinations if you want to cloth diaper full time. Either way, you’ll need lots of newborn and size 1 disposable diapers, or a large set of newborn and one-size cloth diapers. We purchased 24, and found this to be the perfect number for us—you can easily get away with fewer, you’ll just be doing more laundry.
If you’re cloth diapering, cloth wipes are pretty easy. You’ll need a decent sized wipe stash [we have 30 that I made from a yard of flannel], some wipe solution, and a container to store the wipes if you keep them wet. You’ll also need a spray bottle for home and one for travel.
What We Love: BumGenius 4.0 One-Size Pocket Diapers, California Baby Diaper Area Spray
Changing Pad and Covers
A dedicated changing pad is nice to place on top of a dresser for easy diaper and clothing changes. The same chemicals that are found in mattresses are often found in changing pads, so an organic one is best. Pick up at least two covers so that you have a backup when the inevitable diaper accident occurs.
What We Love: Naturepedic Organic Contoured Changing Pad
A bag for wet clothes and dirty cloth diapers is essential for travel. If you’re cloth diapering, find one that’s on the larger side in case you have multiple diapers to store.
What We Love: My wet bag is too small, but these Yarra Modes Wet Bags will hold up to 5 cloth diapers.
Diaper Pail and Liner
You’ll definitely some sort of can with a lid and a waterproof liner to store dirty diapers. This was an item that I thought we could live without before I actually became a parent. We purchased one immediately.
Diaper cream can be store-bought or homemade—there are a ton of recipes online for diaper cream! You may need to experiment with different types to find one that works for your baby. If you’re cloth diapering, be sure to check that it’s cloth diaper safe or you’ll find yourself with diapers that repel moisture [yuck].
If you’re cloth diapering, a diaper sprayer is a great tool to have. There are alternative methods, but giving them a quick rinse in the toilet is by far the easiest.
What We Love: BumGenius Diaper Sprayer
Play Yard and Sheets
If you plan to have baby in your room for the first few months, you’ll need somewhere safe for them to sleep. We used a fancy sidecar crib for our daughter, but realized that a simple play yard with a bassinet attachment works just as well and is much more versatile for the future. These are also great for traveling, sleepovers at grandma’s house, and containing mobile babies while you take a shower.
What We Love: Graco Pack N Play
Crib Sheets (2-3) and Mattress Protector
You’ll need at least 2-3 crib sheets for nighttime diaper leaks, and definitely don’t skip the mattress protector. In fact, pick up one for your own bed as well.
Sleep Sacks (2-3 per size)
Safe sleep is so important—putting a baby to sleep on their back and without loose bedding is a major factor in reducing the risk of SIDS. Wearable blankets keep babies warm and safe, and if you choose to swaddle, the velcro sacks make it easy. We tried to use regular swaddle blankets for a while but our baby would break out of them in five minutes, leaving her vulnerable to the loose blanket and all of us without sleep—the velcro sacks are worth their weight in gold.
Even if baby is in your room at first, a monitor is great to have for nap time and for older babies. A video monitor helped calm my new mom nerves, and it really helps once they transition to a toddler bed.
What We Love: I don’t love my old baby monitor due to battery issues, but I’ve seen great reviews on the Infant Optics Baby Monitor and plan to purchase it for our new baby.
Sleep Monitor (optional)
Infant sleep monitors attach to the baby in some way and monitor their vital signs and temperature, alerting you if there is a problem while they’re sleeping. A monitor can be a spendy item, but it really helped calm my fears as a new mom—good sleep is worth almost any dollar amount in the early days.
These lightweight and versatile blankets serve so many purposes—you only need to carry one item and you have a blanket, a burp cloth, a car seat cover, a changing pad, and a nursing cover. If you use them in this way, you’ll need 1-2 per day, depending on how messy they get.
What We Love: Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blanket
If you choose to use pacifiers, make sure to stock up on a few different types—every baby has a different preference. There are also natural rubber pacifiers that make a great sustainable alternative to plastic ones.
Even if you plan to exclusively breastfeed your baby, you’ll need at least a bottle or two in order to be away from baby for a couple of hours. Opt for glass, stainless steel, or silicone, and choose a slow flow nipple to help a newborn or breastfed baby feel comfortable with a bottle.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I’d like to suggest that you pick up a manual pump as well as an electric one. A manual pump makes it much easier to pump on the go [I’ve pumped manually as a passenger in a car, in a ski lodge bathroom, and in between graduate classes] and is easier to carry.
This is an item that I skipped when I made my registry, but I quickly realized that it was difficult to pump while holding both bottles. For hands-free pumping, choose a good pumping bra and enjoy a book instead.
What We Love: I don’t like my pumping bra, but will opt for a Simple Wishes Pumping Bra when I need to replace it.
Breastmilk Storage Bags
Even an exclusively breastfed baby will need pumped milk from time to time, and breastmilk storage bags are essential for building up a freezer supply. After all, mom and dad need a date night every once in a while!
What We Love: Up & Up Breast Milk Storage Bags
A nursing pillow is helpful, especially in the early days when you and your baby are still getting the hang of breastfeeding. You could use a regular pillow, but the contoured shape of a nursing pillow makes it much easier. Choose a pillow that can function as an infant lounge or tummy time prop for extra versatility.
What We Love: Boppy Nursing Pillow
You won’t really need these until baby starts solid foods, but they can be helpful for extra burpy babies and drooling teethers.
These are essential. You can use a swaddle blanket, special burp cloth, or cut up old towel—anything will do, as long as it’s rather large. The tiny little burp cloths are cute, but won’t cut it if you end up with a reflux baby like mine.
What We Love: Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets
This is a super-optional item, but this pregnancy I decided to buy one so that my poor husband wouldn’t have to try and soothe a hungry baby for ten minutes every time he had to feed her a bottle. Warm water works just as well, it just takes longer. If you’re going to be heating breastmilk, make sure to find one is breastmilk-safe.
What We Love: Kiinde Kozii Bottle Warmer
Baby Bath + Sling
Until the baby is older, a baby bath tub will keep bath time safe and easy. For newborns, a bath sling is especially helpful since they tend to slide down in larger bathtubs. Many tubs come with a removable sling insert, so you’ll only need to buy one product.
A bottle of baby soap will last quite a while, so don’t fear the high ticket prices of the natural brands. Some moms choose to use unscented Dr. Bronner’s, but I feel that trying to keep it out of their eyes would be more trouble than it’s worth. Choose a gentle baby soap without SLS and artificial fragrance—if you need some guidance, there are some great guides out there on choosing a natural baby soap.
Somewhat optional, but helpful for flaky newborn skin and winter weather. Choose a natural lotion without parabens and artificial fragrance, or use coconut oil.
What We Love: California Baby Everyday Baby Lotion
Washcloths and Baby Towels [optional]
You can choose to purchase specialty baby towels and washcloths if you wish, but these aren’t entirely necessary if you have a good supply of regular towels and washcloths. If you’re going to be bathing baby by yourself often, the hooded towels do make things a bit easier.
Yes, you do use your mouth to suck the snot out of your baby’s nose. No, the snot doesn’t go anywhere near your mouth. Trust me, you need this thing. The bulb syringes are useless compared to this, the Dyson of nasal aspiratiors.
What We Love: NoseFrida
Nipple Cream and Breast Pads
Essential items for breastfeeding moms. I prefer a cream without lanolin, and you can pick up some reusable breast pads for leakage.
Soothing Postpartum Balm
A soothing cream designed for postpartum mamas is the best for relieving discomfort. The recovery items you’ll get at the hospital combined with a good cream are essential for the first week or so after labor.
What I Love: Earth Angel Mama Bottom Balm
Self-explanatory. The first postpartum BM is kind of a big deal.
Preferably the biggest ones you can find. Here is one instance where reusable pads are probably more trouble than they’re worth, unless you’re hardcore committed to zero waste. You’ll need a good supply in varying strengths—plan for at least 4 weeks.
A simple postpartum relief trick is to freeze pads soaked with witch hazel. Make 7-10 in advance and enjoy.
Also known as postpartum “granny panties,” though they don’t have to be ugly—stock up on comfy undies now, because you will be wearing them with your giant pads for several weeks.
What I Love: Gilligan O’Malley Laser Cut Hipster
Huge Water Bottle
Postpartum/breastfeeding thirst is real. You’ll likely get a large water bottle at the hospital, but in case your husband forgets to pack it [ahem], you’ll be well prepared if you have a bottle at home that can hold a ridiculous amount of water.
An essential if you plan to breastfeed. Avoid underwire to prevent mastitis, and don’t forget to grab a few comfy ones for sleep as well.
What I Love: Bravado Nursing Bra
Loose shirts and leggings
The thing nobody really tells you about the postpartum period is that none of your clothes will fit—not your regular clothes, not your maternity clothes. Everything will feel too small, too big, and just plain wrong. The best solution is to stock up on a few pairs of under-the-belly leggings and some loose t-shirts that will be comfortable but still look presentable at the grocery store. Personally, I skip specialty nursing tops—pulling a t-shirt up is just as convenient and much less expensive.
What I Love: Gap Maternity Pure Body Low-Rise Leggings
I hope this helps guide you if you’re an expecting parent overwhelmed with all of the wipes warmers and baby food makers on the market. Having a baby doesn’t have to be ludicrously expensive and you don’t need to buy a bigger house to make room for all of the stuff–by sticking to quality essentials, you’ll have the tools that you need to care for your first baby and beyond.
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