When I was pregnant with my first child we lived in a tiny one-room cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska. We didn't have any running water or electricity, and we lived about a quarter mile down a winding, wooded path from the closest road. Needless to say, we didn't have a ton of space for baby gear, so we stocked up on clothes, blankets and diapers, got a car seat and an Ergobaby carrier (probably our biggest purchase) and that’s about it. Being first-time parents, we weren't as prepared as we could have been. But the truth is, we were fine, and our little boy thrived and turned into a smiley little chunker in no time.
About 2 months in, we decided that we were seriously lacking in places to put the baby down. He constantly needed to be held and rocked and bounced around and would never sleep outside of our arms. We decided to move into a new cabin that had a driveway and electricity, and we bought a baby swing right away. Yes, the refrigerator, lights, and heater were pretty great, but the baby swing was like a glorious miracle unicorn gift from heaven! Our baby actually slept in it without being held (gasp!) and I suddenly had a few hours every day while he napped when I was able to do amazing things like brush my hair and do the dishes with both hands!
When my daughter was born three years later we lived in a typical house in Denver, and had most of the typical new baby stuff. We mostly had gear designed to help the baby sleep, because, as second time parents, 90% of our brain power was focused on sleep and how to get it. But the reality was that having all that extra gear didn’t really make having a newborn any easier. She was born hating the swing or any kind of movement so all the things that had worked for our son didn't work for her. She also wouldn't sleep in the crib. A lot of the items we thought we would need just sat collecting dust but selling them seemed like a big hassle. Finally, we discovered the Fisher Price Rock ’n Play. This ended up being the golden ticket, can’t live without it item the second time around. It was the only place our daughter would sleep and when you’re a new parent, baby sleep is priceless.
My point in all this is that there really isn't a one-size-fits-all must have list for new babies, because every baby is different and most are born with pretty strong ideas about what they like and don’t like. One baby’s trash is another baby’s come up, if you will (thanks Macklemore). But there are some pretty great items for babies out there that are well worth trying, especially if you can get them at a discount.
My suggestion is to start small because newborns don't need much more than YOU. Get a car seat, clothes, and order some gently used starter items from GoodBuy Gear. You won’t spend a fortune, and, if your baby decides to reject them, you can easily sell them again without even having to leave your house! Enjoy those new baby snuggles and discover what his likes and dislikes are. Once you get to know your baby, it will be easier to make decisions about what kind of gear to get. Then you can shop GoodBuy Gear again (wearing your pajamas while nursing a baby, if you like) and with a few clicks you can have all the gently used gear you need delivered to your doorstep!
So what do you really need for a newborn?
Before the baby is born you will definitely want to have a car seat, clothes, diapers (disposable or cloth), diaper bag, burp cloths, and blankets. I would also suggest having at least one place for the baby to sleep and/or be put down safely during the day. This does not necessarily need to be a crib. You could go with a bassinet, co-sleeper, pack n play, or my personal favorite, the Fisher Price Rock n Play.
You are also going to want stuff for feeding your baby. If you plan to breastfeed, a nursing pillow is very useful along with a nursing bra, breast pads, perhaps a pump and bottles (if you plan to pump), or a manual pump for emergencies (if you don't plan to pump).
Here are some other things that you might want to consider, depending on your baby’s personality.
If your baby loves movement, then swings are where it’s at! We had a basic Graco swing and I’m not sure how I would have survived without it for my first kiddo.
Bouncers provide a safe and convenient place to put your baby down while they are awake. We had the Baby Bjorn Bouncer Balance for baby #2 and I highly recommend it. She seemed happy and comfortable in it and it almost doubled as room decor because the design is so hip. Get one in a nice neutral color because it might end up being the backdrop for almost all of your baby’s first photos (I speak from experience). There are lots of other bouncers to choose from too, and many have music and vibrations if your baby digs those kinds of things.
Baby sleep will make your life happy, so get whatever will help your baby sleep. You might have to try a few different options before you find the right thing, but it will be more than worth the effort once you find it! Also, try swaddling. Some babies love it and others not so much (as with most things baby.) If you have a swaddle loving baby, the swaddle bags like the Summer Infant SwaddleMe are awesome and easy to use. If your baby sleeps fine on flat surfaces, you have lots of options: crib, bassinet, pack ’n play, co-sleeper, take your pick!
Both my kids preferred inclined surfaces like the swing and the rock ’n play. You could also try a crib wedge that tilts the mattress up a bit, or the Day Dreamer Baby Lounger.
The latest and greatest invention is the SNOO Smart Sleeper which was designed by Dr. Harvey Karp, the baby sleep genius and author of the super popular Happiest Baby books. If you can afford one of these bad boys, I am pretty sure you should get one! Or, if you happen to find one used, you should jump on it quick because the zombie sleep deprived parents out there are stalking these things like crazy!
If your baby likes being in a car seat and doesn't scream every minute she is in one (side eye to my daughter), you might want to consider getting a stroller with a car seat adapter or a car seat carrier frame like the Baby Trend Snap N Go. If you want to go with a long-term stroller, my personal favorites are the BOB Revolution, Britax B-Agile, or the Baby Jogger City Select, but there are a ton of great options out there.
Baby carriers are awesome. They allow you to use both hands while still holding your baby. They are especially essential for 2nd babies, because they allow you to care for the older sibling with both hands while still holding, or even nursing, your baby. I used them a lot for both of my kids. I have tried a lot of different brands, but my all-time favorite for the first few months is the Baby K’tan. It is super comfortable to wear, keeps baby snuggled close, and it’s very easy and convenient to use. Good Buy Gear has a waitlist for Ergo and Lillebaby carriers so those appear to be fan favorites amongst our community of buyers.
You might also want a changing table and all those little medical supplies like a thermometer and a nose sucker thing. But, don’t get those bulb things which are gross and don't really work. Go with the Nose Frida, it is amazing.
What other things am I missing? Do you have something you (or your little one) can't live without? Tell us about it in the comments. We love hearing from our great community of parents.