During my pregnancy, I was forced to think more minimalistically, due to lack of space, and as much as I love to shop, it has become a way of life. At the same time, what do babies really need? All the baby sites have so many lists of what your baby needs, but do you really need all of them? The truth is, babies at a bare minimum just need food, sleep, and a clean booty. Thankfully, I found some blogs on baby minimalism when I was preparing for baby's arrival, and now that we're through the newborn phase, I thought I'd share my tips and recommendations for what I feel are the most necessary items. If you're not worried about minimalism, this list will at least get you started in what can be an overwhelming world of baby products.
1. What Baby Sleeps In
One of the first things you'll surely be looking into is what baby will sleep in. The American Pediatric Association recommends baby sleep separate from mother, but in the same room for the first six months. If you're lacking space, I highly recommend a simple pack 'n play. We had this in our room until we had better luck getting our babe to sleep by bringing him into the bed with us. You can read about our decision to cosleep here. In general, pack 'n plays are easy to move around from room to room and travel with. We eventally moved it downstairs where he'd nap or be entertained. We also took it with us when we went to visit my grandma, and it was super easy to pack up into the car and unload. It will also grow with baby so when baby gets too big for the infant level, it becomes a little play pen. This has been a life savor for us, because I can keep our baby entertained while I get some work done--not always for long, but that's a different story. When shopping for one, you'll find some pretty fancy and loaded ones. At first I thought it was so neat that some came with bassinets and a change pad, but quickly realized how quickly our baby would outgrow those aspects and then they'd just be taking up space. So, I'd recommend a simple version with a toy bar. The toy bar is key to keep baby occupied. We have this Graco one.
If a pack 'n play doesn't fit in your room, I'd recommend getting a Finnish baby box. I really wanted one of these, until I realized the pack 'n play fit in our room. After baby outgrows the box to sleep in, you can use it to store baby's stuff.
A stroller is a basic baby need and there are SO MANY kinds out there. Do you research and consider what's important to you. I'm still floored by the prices of some of these strollers, but I'm very happy with our Mockingbird stroller. It's comparable to the Uppa Baby, but half to one-third the price of one, because it's a direct to consumer product so they cut out all the excess fees from their price tag. When we were shopping for strollers, it was $350, but the price has gone up to $395 because the stroller can now expand to a double stroller, which it couldn't do previously. The reason I love this stroller is because it's high quality, cost-efficient, and stylish.
3. Car Seat
A car seat is another must. If you give birth at a hospital, you won't be able to leave without one. We were also able to order a car seat adapter that matches our infant car seat so we could easily transport baby without having to take him in and out of the car seat all the the time. Our choice for car seat, which I do indeed love, is the Nuna Pipa. But this is another one where you should do your research and go with what meets your preferences.
4. Play Gym
Baby needs to be entertained and be stimulated for proper development. The play mat is another good friend. I went with the Lovevery play gym which is perfect for various stages of development and grows with baby. Eventually, it turns into a small fort and I'm really looking forward to that.
5. Newborn Clothing
I was expecting an 8lb baby, but ours came a little early, and I didn't have newborn (NB) clothing. Also note that NB is not the same as 0-3 months. It was so funny in the hospital on the day we went home. I was so excited, I brought his little Laker 0-3 month onesie, knowing it may be big on him but didn't expect it to DROWN him. That one is oddly a fairly large one though (or it has stretched out), because it still fits him even with his fluffy cloth diaper booty, though it's very close to not fitting him now at five months. I recommend at least a handful of NB sized footed pajamas, because while onesies can be baggie without bother (unless it bothers you), the footed pajamas don't really work if they're too big.
Babies that small also don't really need accessories. Depending on where you live and the climate, a hat may be useful, but otherwise I'd say skip the shoes, socks, and mittens, unless you need the latter two for weather purposes. Some people will tell you to get mittens so babies don't scratch themselves, but babies cue with their hands a lot and if they scratch themselves they heal very quickly.
6. Cheater Swaddles
I'm still not totally convinced swaddling is for every baby, but everyone tells you this is how you calm a fussy baby, because it reminds them of the womb, even if they fight you on it and appear to hate it. So, I recommend this one with caution. The cheater swaddles are great, because baby will not be able to get out of that swaddle. What I mean by cheater swaddles are the ones that have a pocket you stick babies legs in, it's easy to wrap around baby's body and arms, and is secured with a velcro. Had we had these from the beginning, I wonder if our son would've taken to swaddling better. I thought I had gotten pretty decent at wrapping my baby into a burrito with the blanket type swaddles, but he'd oft come out of his swaddle and by the time we got the cheater ones, we used them for maybe two or three days before he screamed bloody murder every time we put him in it.
That being said, the blanket ones are nice, so I'd recommend 2-3 of those because if they don't work out as swaddles, they're great blankets. I'm saving our cheater swaddles for the next one though to see if there's a difference using those ones from the get go.
7. Some Kind of Swing or Bouncer
The first few months you need to be able to put baby in a variety of safe places, because babies also get bored and need a change of scenery. So when our baby got tired of his play gym or pack n' play, the swing helped us out a lot. We have this Fisher Price one, which we really enjoy and as baby grew he also enjoyed more of it. I liked this option for the developmental aspects and the fact that it swings side to side or rocks front to back, and plays music and nature sounds. The only downside is that it takes up quite a bit of space. If I were to do it again, I might get a bouncer for the sake of space.
8. Booty Duty Necessities
Forget the fancy diaper balms and creams, and just use olive oil and/or coconut oil...to start. I say to start because you may decide you need something more. I use coconut oil on baby's diaper area and as his moisturizer. I even use it on myself. Olive oil is even better for booty duty though, because of its healing and protective properties. I used this when we were working through a bad latch nursing as well, and it was my Godsend. So, if baby has a rash, it'll help heal the rash, but also serves as a protective barrier. I was amazed when I first applied olive oil on my cracked nipples and was able to nurse him without pain. That's because the olive oil sealed up my wounds and also worked to heal them. So the olive oil may be very useful to you as well, if you're nursing. I just made my own little concoction with some tea tree oil and aloe vera to use on baby's diaper area, so I'll keep you posted on that if it works out!
You can also take it one step forward and ditch the the wipes and use olive oil to wipe baby's bottom with either a cotton pad or cloth wipe. We use cloth wipes and for the most part were just using water which works great, but I've come to learn olive oil works even better! It's especially good if baby poos and you didn't realize so it dries p a little on baby's booty. That probably won't happen for a little while though.
9. Baby Brush
Babies can have crazy skin issues, from dryness to baby acne to eczema, and....cradle cap. I was lucky to learn about this before baby was born, because cradle cap is NASTY. And I know, because our baby had a nasty case for a couple months.
Before our son was born, I got a tip to brush his hair/massage his scalp with a brush every day to prevent cradle cap. So, when he was born I did that. At first it seemed to work and over time I got a little lazy with it and wasn’t brushing his hair/massaging his scalp every day anymore. At two months, BAM. He developed nasty, I repeat NASTY cradle cap on his scalp. Cradle cap is like a thick yellow dandruff stuck to baby’s head. It just looks gross. They can also get it on their eyebrows and under their chin. In those areas our baby just appeared to have a little dry skin. I didn’t even notice the dryness on his chin until his pediatrician pointed it out. Moral of the story, prevent cradle cap, get a baby hair brush. If they do get cradle cap, it should come off on its own, or you can get a gentle shampoo that will help remove it. My husband and I picked some of it off ourselves, and our son picked a lot of it off himself. Ugh, nasty. If it doesn't go away on its own though, definitely do something about it. My hairdresser recently told me she had a client who brought in her five-year-old and apparently never did anything about the cradle cap. I want to vomit just thinking about it. YUCK.
10. Some Kind of Chair
Around 2-2.5 months I noticed our son was no longer easily satisfied with just laying around, staring at, and kicking dangling things from the toy bar on his pack n’ play or his play gym. He had decent head control and could sort of sit with assistance, so one day I decided to bust out his high chair. He loved it! A new vantage point! At the time of writing this blog, our baby still hasn’t had solids but we get great use out of the high chair. We started with putting a book in front of him to keep him entertained and occupied, and then added his toys, too. You can also get a baby chair, but this method worked for us and you’re going to need your high chair for feedings later on anyways.
11. Baby Carrier
Without a baby carrier, I would get nothing done. I absolutely love my Ergobaby Omni 360, because it worked from birth or at least 7lbs. It’s also good for baby ergonomically speaking. In those first few weeks it’s another way to do some skin to skin and go for a walk. Our baby tended to fall asleep quickly in those. Just be careful of baby getting overheated. Once they can face outward it becomes more fun. Baby loves it and still falls asleep in it. Nowadays, I can also carry him on my back so if mama needs to get work done, but baby needs attention, baby just goes in the carrier! It’s also easy to use yourself, though you may need some assistance the first time or two.
12. Exersaucer / Activity Center
While baby won't use this until a little later, and these are typically recommended from 4+ months or once baby has good head control, we put baby in this at 3 months, and stuffed it with a blanket so he wouldn't flop over. This came in handy to keep him occupied and gave him a new vantage point, even though at first he wasn't able to play with any of the toys other than the piano. We have the Skip Hop activity center, similar to this one, and love it, because it grows with baby and turns into a table your child will be able to use later on. Skip Hop even sells a chair you can purchase when that time comes.
Along with your other basic first aid / health kit like thermometer, nail clippers (which you won’t even need right away), toothbrush, one thing you’ll for sure need is an aspirator and some saline drops. Many folks get the Frida snot sucker, but I found in the early days the regular ok’ bulb aspirator actually worked better—at least for that stage. It’s simple and easy to clean, too. Baby is going to have a snotty, boogery nose, and their nostrils are so tiny you’ll need to suck out the boogers so baby can breathe. If they can breathe, then they can sleep, too. So keep that sucker (pun intended) by your bedside!
Duh. I didn’t think I needed to state this one, but figured I’d best do so...just in case. Diapers and wipes, of course. And if you've followed our cloth diapering journey, you'll know that I always recommend cloth wipes whether use disposables or cloth.
This may seem obvious, too, but I figured I’d add it. I didn’t buy any bottles at first, and you don't have to either. I started with the two bottles that came with my pump, which was covered by insurance. The I signed up for a Babylist free gift box when I registered with Babylist. There are loads of similar free gift boxes, but I decided I did not want all that "stuff" and the one was plenty. The box includes bottles, pacifiers, a change mat, and I don't remember what else. This was good enough to get us started to see if we even needed more bottles. Of course, if you plan to use formula or exclusively pump, then you'll probably need/want more bottles. But this got us started and helped us decided whether we liked a bottle or not. Eventually we found we needed a bottle that was better for or son's excessive reflux and went with the Dr. Brown's Wide Neck bottles. Everyone will swear by a bottle, but every baby is different. We did find these Dr. Brown's to help with reflux though. You may have to do a little trial and error if you're not happy with your bottles.
16. Baby Shampoo/Bodywash
A final, and also obvious one, baby shampoo/bodywash. They are oft one and the same, and you'll want hypoallergenic shampoo/bodywash for baby's sensitive skin. It's important to get one made for babies because they'll usually be tear-free.
The key to minimalism when it comes to shopping for baby is considering these things:
If you're not concerned with minimalism, then I hope this list will at least help get you started in what can be an overwhelming world of baby products.