The pretty pregnant lady zapping a bazilion baby products with her barcode scanner was driving me batty. Four crib bedding sets, three baby monitors (one with video and a Wi-Fi remote), two highchairs, and one hundred too many pieces of newborn clothing all rounded out her insane baby registry at Babies’R'Us. (Don’t ask me to flip that ‘R’ backwards.)
But backwards was this first time mom-to-be’s gift list. Being a new mom myself, I wanted to shake her silly and tell her what stuff I really used and needed during those first few months. Then I remembered — no new mom wants unsolicited parenting advice, and it’s not nice to shake pretty pregnant ladies.
Free Download: Newborn Essentials Checklist
I still wanted to yell: “YOU DON’T NEED FOUR DIAPER STACKERS! Where are your dang receiving blankets? Stop scanning $400 crib bedding sets! SAVE YOUR MONEY!”
But I bit my lip, watched in disbelief as she scanned crazy expensive stuff, and swore I’d create a Newborn Essentials Checklist to save my thrifty readers some big money before bringing home baby.
‘Cause despite some first time parents’ beliefs, a newborn baby only needs stuff relating to five basic human needs: sleeping, eating, keeping warm, getting clean, and love.
Your baby doesn’t care about designer brands, matching booties for every outfit, and whether your gear is new or used. Seriously. Your baby just wants to keep you awake all night long, eat on demand, and keep you awake all night long!
With this in mind, you might be surprised by how few baby items you really need during the first three months. So aim your barcode scanners in the right direction with my Baby Essentials Checklist, a guide for thrifty parents just interested in the baby basics.
Baby Clothes — The Layette
New parents tend to go ‘gaga’ over newborn clothing. I’ve seen teenie tiny dresses, brand name jeans, and dozens of designer sleepers in the shopping carts of many expectant parents — “Only the best for my baby,” seems to be the sentiment. The reality is those newborns grow fast, and stocking up on too much tiny newborn gear can spell disaster if your baby is born around the 8lb mark and the newborn clothing does not fit!
Don’t believe me? I’ve sourced plenty of unused newborn clothing by finding well-intentioned parents who bought too much. Great for me. Bad for those new parents now scrambling to pay for 3-month sleepers after the first month. Here are a few tips on how to save money on newborn clothing:
How to save money on Baby Clothing:
1. Buy 20% new, source 80% used. Resist the urge to buy everything new, and stock up on USED baby essentials first. My rule of thumb is to find 80% used for daily use, and buy 20% new for special outings. There’s a huge market for used baby clothing — it’s been used only a few months after all! Join Facebook groups, check out Craigslist, and ask your parenting friends — chances are you’ll score BAGS of used newborn clothing for cheap. Many seasoned parents just want to get rid of their stuff, and might even part with it for free.
2. Embrace baby clothing stains. Think your baby won’t stain their new sleepers? Think again. I gladly accepted any used sleeper with a spot or two to save serious money. My baby didn’t care. Launder. Barf. Save money. Repeat.
3. Wait for the birth weight. Sure, go ahead and buy a few new pieces before your baby is born, but knowing your baby’s birth weight before you buy into a big shopping trip can help you choose sizes that will fit longer than a few days.
Baby Clothing Essentials:
Just the essentials, people.
- 6-8 one-piece sleepers (zippers or snaps, your choice!)
- 2 pairs of scratch mittens
- 2 newborn hats
- 6-8 onesies (a mix of short and long sleeves)
- 2 pairs of stretchy pants
- 2 hoodie jackets (love these)
- 4 pairs of socks (keeps tiny toes warm)
- 2 special dress-up outfits (for leaving hospital, visiting grandparents)
- 1 large blanket
- 8-12 receiving blankets (great for swaddling, and use as bibs or burp cloths)
- Winter Babies: Snowsuit or bunting bag.
- Summer Babies: Wide brimmed sun hat.
I’d also highly recommend switching to a scent-free, dye-free laundry detergent. I’ve been using (and loving) Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda for all my baby clothing and cloth diapers. Pick up a massive tub of the stuff for cheap at Costco.
Bath Time: Getting Baby Clean
Little babies can sure make big messes. Here’s what you need to get every chunky nook and chubby foot clean.
- 1 plastic infant tub — buy used. (Or stick a large bowl in your sink. Also, you can bathe together with baby)
- 1 hooded towel
- 15 washcloths (Great for baths and wiping up spit-up)
- Baby wash (can be used for hair and body)
I crunched the nappy numbers and did the diaper math. Turns out cloth diapers could save your family $1,799 with one child. Check out Price Check: Are cloth diapers worth it? for the science (’cause I like science).
I also shared how you can build a cloth diaper stash on a tight budget with many different cloth diapering systems.
Cloth Diapers Checklist
Yep, I’m an advocate of cloth nappies. Here’s all you need:
- 24 OsoCozy Prefolds ($50)
- 5 Thirsties Covers ($65)
- 2 Snappi fasteners ($8)
- 1 diaper wet bag
- 1 Organic coconut oil (Safe for cloth diapers, great on diaper rash, safe for baby)
- 24 washcloths for wiping
Total cost is around $155 — far less than disposables.
Disposable Diapers Checklist
- 2 boxes of newborn diapers (Don’t stock up on newborn sizes — your little one might grow fast)
- 1 diaper pail
- Baby ointment or diaper rash cream
- Disposable wipes
Optional Diapering Accessories:
- Change table (I used my Pack ‘N Play or the top of a dresser)
- Diaper bag
- 1 diaper change pad
Since we adopted our baby girl, we used bottles and formula. I asked my breastfeeding friends what they needed to feed their babies.
Bottle and formula feeding:
I found the best value by buying a bottle starter kit which included the bottle warmer, bottle sterilizer, and bottle brush in the deal. Buy everything separate and you may pay a lot more.
- 6-8 four-ounce bottles with nipples
- 6 eight-ounce bottles with nipples
- Bottle brush
- 2-4 bibs
- Nursing pillow (nice to have)
- Breast pads (reusable or disposable)
- A few moms loved their breast pump and milk storage containers.
- 2-4 bibs
Choosing a sleeping arrangement these days seems akin to prescribing to a parenting style. Attachment parenting types advocate co-sleeping, while others prefer bassinets, cribs, or Pack ‘N Plays. The choices are mind-blogging for something as seemingly simple as putting your baby to bed.
We used this Pack ‘N Play (with bassinet and changer) for the first 4.5 months, and loved it. For under $170 you’ll have several needs (sleep, play, diapering, storage) covered by one piece of gear. Later, just remove the basinet and changer and take the play area to the grandparents. I don’t regret the purchase.
But essentially, you’ll need to choose from the following:
- Crib, mattress, 2 mattress covers, 2 fitted sheets
- Basinet, 2 fitted sheets
- Pack ‘N Play
- Nice to have: 2 Grobag Baby Sleeping Bags or Swaddle Blanket
I’ll be writing about my crib-buying experience in an upcoming post.
Health and Safety Essentials
I can’t let you skip out on these heath and safety items.
- Infant car seat (buy new)
- Ear thermometer (check temperature while baby sleeps)
- Nail emery board (easier than using scissors)
A few final nice-to-haves
Got a friend with this baby gear on hand? Go ahead and ask to borrow these items before committing to buy. All kids are different, and yours may hate the stroller but love the baby carrier.
Better to know before plunking down your cash for something your baby won’t use. Since many parents own the gear on this list, it’s pretty darn easy to buy it all used. I did. Well, I bought the pacifers and teething toys new.
- Sling or baby carrier (buy used)
- Stroller (buy used)
- Vibrating chair (buy used)
- Swing (buy used)
- Activity center (buy used)
- Books for baby
- Teething toy (Sophie the Giraffe is a very popular choice).
- Stroller or car seat toy
- 2 Pacifiers
That’s my baby essentials list. What did I miss?