Essential Baby Items (and Not-So-Essentials) |

Essential Baby Items (and Not-So-Essentials)

admin January 3, 2011

Image by mlcassid

When you’re having your first baby, it’s overwhelming to think about all the stuff that babies need.  Fun, too — but there is just so much of it!  These days, families have tons of clothes, bottles, breast pumps, special feeding dishes and spoons, cups, cribs, play yards, bassinets, car seats, bouncer seats, exersaucers, Jumperoos, swings, play gyms, and so much more.  Do we really need all of it?  Or are there things we can truly do without?

I believe that our baby obsession comes from our “stuff culture.”  We want as much as possible for our special little baby, including the perfect nursery set, super cute outfits (complete with matching shoes for newborns), tons of “baby holders” (I’ll be writing more on what I think of those in a couple weeks), and more.  We think babies are so expensive — and if you really buy all this stuff, and buy much of it new, they sure are.  But it really doesn’t have to be this way.  There are a few essential items that you do need, some that are merely nice to have, and others that are absolutely frivolous and unnecessary.


  • A car seat (infant, if you like; or convertible so it will last your baby a lot longer)
  • A crib or other place for baby to sleep (just one is fine, you don’t really need a crib, bassinet, play yard, co-sleeper, etc.)
  • Diapers (I prefer cloth, but you’ll need something)
  • Clothes (basic onesies, sleepers, shirts and pants; you don’t need the fancy, expensive outfits)
  • Small first aid kit (Gripe Water, saline solution, tweezers, nail clippers, hair brush, arnica salve, bandages, gauze, thermometer)
  • Blankets (just a few small, soft ones; you really don’t need a dozen)
  • Crib sheets (3 – 4 plain ones)
  • Wrap or sling (a way to carry baby hands-free)
  • Diaper bag (something to carry baby’s things on the go)
  • Booster/high-chair combo

Nice to Have

  • Bassinet/co-sleeper (to make the early weeks easier)
  • “Outfit” clothes, nice clothes
  • Bouncer
  • Play gym
  • Extra baby slings (one for car/one for house; different styles for different ages/parents)
  • Stroller
  • Changing Table
  • High chair
  • Safe baby feeding equipment (cups, spoons, bowls, etc.)
  • Breast pump (may be a need in certain cases)
  • Bottles (may be a need in certain cases)
  • Rocking chair/glider


  • Matching nursery bedding
  • Brand new nursery furniture
  • Nursery decorations
  • Most toys
  • Mobiles
  • Stuffed animals
  • Fancy quilts
  • Jumperoo/exersaucer
  • Expensive special occasion outfits
  • Shoes (until they are walking outside)
  • Baby “intelligence” DVDs


As for the “frivolous” list, it’s not that you should never have those things.  But if you are looking to have a baby on a budget, buy first from the “necessary” list, then from the “nice” list.  Things on the “frivolous” list are best bought last, or even given as gifts.  We do have nice quilts (handmade by family) and a few other things that we truly found unnecessary which were just given to us.  

It’s just important that you don’t think you somehow can’t welcome your baby home without a perfectly decorated, coordinating nursery!  Or special “baby holders” or toys, etc.  You simply don’t need those things.  As for the DVDs, babies should not watch TV.  Babies who do watch (even the “smart baby” type DVDs) actually talk less than their non-TV-watching counterparts.  Babies need live, real human interaction, not movies.  Don’t bother!  The same goes for a lot of unnecessary classes intended to make your baby smart.

For me, personally, I loved having onesies, cloth diapers, a Moby wrap, a Mei Tai (when they were older), a crib, a bassinet, crib sheets (I sewed several), bumpers (they helped Daniel feel cozy and sleep better when he was older), a changing table, a play gym (with Bekah only), a bouncer (the only baby-holder my kids actually ever sat in), my high-chair-booster combo, strollers, their Britax Marathon car seats….  There really wasn’t much more.

I did decorate the nurseries a tiny bit (some wall hangings, their names).  I didn’t specially paint them.  I did not buy matching bedding sets (or any bedding sets).  They have quilts from their grandmothers, handmade.  Bekah’s dresser is the one I used as a kid, which my parents got for $10 at a garage sale over 25 years ago.  Daniel’s is one we just had in the guest room (now his room).  I didn’t buy special lamps.  I didn’t buy an exersaucer or Jumperoo (was given both free, but wouldn’t have bought — am giving them away now as my kids did not like them).  More and more, I find I really need less and less!

What are your favorite baby items?  What did you find completely unnecessary?

This is the writings of:



  1. A swing let me get some much needed sleep when my newborn wanted to be held 24-7 the first two weeks. Iwas especially grateful for it from about 2:30-4:00 am!! I found a travel swing was just as nice and actually cuddled him better than a full sized swing. It cost less and took up less space.


  2. The only thing that I would add to your necessary list (for me at least) is a baby monitor. In my house, there is no way I could not have one as I would never hear the baby until (s)he is screaming. I also never have had a high chair, so I would probably move it to the nice category, but to each her own 😉 And you never need as many clothes as most people have. For alot of my friends' kids, they would either never wear or only wear once most of the clothes they had as infants.


  3. Agreed on most of those. Unlike you, I absolutely hated my Moby Wrap. I like a fitted sling (sewed my own) for when they're newborns, a mei tai for when they're a couple months old to about a year, and then the sling again after that with them upright on my hip. This is the one I sewed: I did it without a pocket and it was super easy. Not something worth buying when it's so easy for any novice sewer to do.

    Things I had been given/borrowed and got rid of:
    jumparoo- huge waste of space
    walker- used for such a short period of time- waste of space
    push-behind toy- again, used for very brief periods- perhaps days. My kids learned faster without.
    Baby Bjorn-type carrier- #1 hated it, plus they're not good for their hips
    Plastic baby tub- can either use a foldable mesh thing in the tub or just put a towel down in the tub with very little water. Again- took lots of space. (can you tell I don't have much to spare?)
    Too many clothes- you can only use so many- esp during that first year when the sizes change all the time. I like basic pieces as well, but only keep what I *really* like. Baby clothes are a dime a dozen (or at least 4 or 5/$1) at yard sales and if you are selective, you can make out like a bandit and other people spend way too much on clothing anyway. Just don't go overboard. You find yourself going to the same ones all the time anyway.

    What I'd add to the necessary list:
    waterproof mattress pad- I don't mean one that wraps around- just flat. I got a 2-pack for a gift from Target. One I use in the crib and double-layer the sheets (mattress, sheet, pad, sheet), so that when blowouts happen in the middle of the night, you can just rip off a layer and have another ready. They also work well as portable diaper changers. You can cut them to a convenient size and keep one in the house and one in the diaper bag.

    Nursing cover- especially for first time moms. They give you more confidence and privacy. Don't buy them! Make one or have someone do it for you. They're so easy for anybody who can sew. I have done this one without the strips:
    Regarding diaper bags- I like to use my old college backpack. When they're little, you're gonna carry around a lot of gear. I like the multiple pockets to use as diaper bag/purse combo and be done with it. When they get older and have fewer changings, etc. you can cut back.

    Sorry for such a long comment. Hope this stuff helps someone else.


  4. I'd add a swing to t he "nice to have" list. My first son was Mr. Cranky and a swing was a real help. We also used an adjustable ring sling, but my body just couldn't handle wearing a baby ALL DAY! 🙂

    I'd also put the high chair in the "not necessary" category. We found that it took up too much space, and we really preferred having the baby at the table with us. He sat in a lap until old enough to sit up by himself, and then we switched to a table seat (the kind that attaches to the table).


  5. It's funny to me how different (and often passionate) everyone's "baby essentials" are. 🙂 I think every new mom has to experiment with what works for her and what doesn't.

    Personally, I would totally put the high chair in the necessary! Nor right away, I guess. And maybe not a regular, free-standing high chair because of space. But we have a SpaceSaver high chair that sits on a regular dining room chair that I don't think I could do without. (The ones that hang off the edge of the table look like good space-savers too.) I know from experience that my 9 month old would devour all my food before I ate anything if I had to hold him during dinner. Any time I've tried to eat with him on my lap, it's pure disaster. Also, we do baby-led weaning, so our babies kind of need their own space to eat/play/nibble at their food. And it's important to me that we eat together as a family (including baby) and not at separate times. All that to say that for me, a high chair is essential! 🙂


  6. Great post! Nursery decorating ideas isn't hard, you just have to choose what really fits for your baby. Every details are important to consider, from wall decorations to cot sheet set in setting up a perfect nursery room. Nursery decorations are good baby gift ideas.


  7. I would say high chairs are a "nice to have" but not necessary item as well. During the day it's just me and my daughter so for feedings I would just sit on the floor with her. Before she was really sitting up on her own i just held her. In the evenings, for family togetherness at dinner time, her dad and I took turns holding her and eating.

    I would say changing tables are completely unnecessary unless you need the extra storage. My daughter is wiggly during diaper changes, its just dangerous. And even now, she's so busy getting into things, the only stuff I can safely store on it are her toys.

    A 'nice to have' ( or 'necessary', if I had antique wood floors like my inlaws w nails and splinters sticking out), a foam play mat. It's made out of "flip flop" material and it fits together like puzzle pieces. When my 1 year old was first learning to sit by herself and crawl, she hit her head on the floor sooooo many times. Of course, a rug would do the same job but we preferred to spend $20 on the 9×9 mat than $300+ on a rug that we were only buying for her.

    I second the baby monitor as an essential. Whether you are co sleeping or not, there are times when your baby is sleeping when you want to go do other things like cooking, or laundry, or office work. You can't be in the room 100% of the time.


  8. I love that you say a sling is nessercary! Agreed 🙂


  9. I do think the baby monitor is completely useless. I do not like having babies sleeping in different rooms nor I like them away from me.


    • I use mine for toddlers. 🙂 We had one in my 4-year-old’s room until a few months ago (it broke) and still have one in my almost 3-year-old’s room. We don’t “need” them very often anymore but it’s good for peace of mind. My baby is still in my room.


  10. Thanks for sharing the necessities. It is hard to first time parents to know what they will need and what they can wait on .


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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