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“What baby gear do I really need for my new baby?” That is the question on every soon-to-be parent’s mind. Well, that and a million other questions, but today’s article will look at what baby gear is really necessary. And I don’t mean keeping up the Joneses type of necessary, instead what is necessary to make your job as mom and dad easier. Here I share just 23 items you will want to have.
So first thing’s first: Let’s think about what babies do in those early days.
Babies eat, sleep, cry, and excrete. That’s only four things, and if we can prioritize our baby gear prep list in this manner, we can make it feel a whole lot less overwhelming!
Many of the products in the market today are unnecessary, or they are luxury versions of necessities, and it can be so overwhelming. If we go back to basics, and you nail those, then it’s easier to start to think about the extras.
So, let’s narrow down what things you really need. Then it’ll be time to focus on brands/types and extras.
And of course, over time you will learn your baby, and you will determine if you need other gear, but this is all the baby gear you really need for when your baby is a newborn.
If you want a printable checklist of everything you’ll read below with a place for notes, head to the bottom!
What baby gear do I really need?
Baby’s gotta eat, and there are several ways to accomplish this.
Some babies nurse, some babies use bottles with expressed milk, and some have bottles with formula. Outside of medical conditions, these are the ways babies are fed.
However you feed your baby is your prerogative, mama. “Fed is best.”
If you nurse, you don’t need anything in terms of food since your body does all the work, but you may want to get some nursing supports and supplies such as:
- Nursing Pillow Support
Supporting the weight of your baby’s head during feedings, which can take up to 45 minutes or more when they are a newborn and you’re figuring it out, can be really tiring for your arm. You can go with what you have handy and put a normal pillow under baby and your arm, or you can get a nursing pillow like the Boppy.
- Nursing Pads
When you begin your nursing journey, and possibly throughout your time as a nursing mom, your breasts will leak. You feed baby on one side, and some milk releases along with it on the other. And for some people, you can have a let-down even just by hearing your (or another) baby cry. To prevent this, nursing pads are your friend. Sustainable, reusable ones are the way to go!
- Nursing Tank Tops
A few nursing tanks in your arsenal is a huge way to make nursing easier. Wear them day and night! Paired with a t-shirt over top, you have an easy way to feed your baby without exposing more than you’re comfortable to do. Just pull up the t-shirt and clip down the tank. (If you want less hassle, don’t bother with nursing bras. It’s just another thing you need to move out of the way to feed your sweetie pie. Tank and T is where it’s at!).
NEWS ALERT: I just saw an add for leakproof nursing bras from the company KnixWear (they make leakproof period panties) and this sounds like a million dollar idea. Then you could have your tanks and not even need extra nursing pads inside. Amazing!
- Nipple Cream or Butter
In the first weeks of nursing, your nipples and areola can easily get raw and sore, especially as you work with baby on their latch. Having ingestion-safe, natural nipple cream on hand ahead of time can give you relief right away!
If you’re a pumping Mama, whether that’s exclusively or in between nursing your baby, you’ll need some kit.
- Breast Pump
Often times this can be covered by insurance now, so check with your plan. There are electric pumps which may be the easiest route to start. There are also hand pumps which are good for travel and pressure-release. I hear mamas who swear by the Haaka for both pumping and catching milk while they are nursing on the other side.
- Milk storage bags
If you’re going to pump, you’ve got to have a way to store it! It’s recommended to write the date on the bags if you plan to store them for for a while so you can keep track of when they need to be consumed by.
There a so many types of bottles! And there’s a good chance that baby will have a strong preference for and against certain ones. To make it as low stress as possible, what I suggest you do is get one bottle of three different types/brands, and see what baby likes best, and then stock up later.
PSA: You don’t need a special drying rack or sanitizer. You can air dry bottles and bits and bobs on your current drying rack or inside your dishwasher on the rack, and you can sanitize in a pot. If you want to buy those, by all means, but you don’t need them!
For sleep, you really only need a place for baby to sleep at night, a place for baby to sleep during the day, and a swaddle in which to sleep. And it doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be safe, which generally means a firm surface without any pillows, blankets, bumpers, etc around it with baby on their back.
Co-sleeping is something a LOT of parents do, often initially for survival during the sleepless newborn nights, and then many parents continue because it’s oh-so-sweet. Parents who said they’d never co-sleep often find it hard to resist in the middle of the night and bring baby into bed. Now, co-sleeping is often discouraged, but teaching abstinence doesn’t work when people will do it out of necessity. So if you do co-sleep, don’t feel guilty (we even did it!), just do your best to do so safely.
- Fixed sleeper such as a Bassinet or Crib with sheet
In the early months especially, you will likely want your little cherub in your room at night, and you have a couple options for that. There is the fancy Snoo which I have heard fabulous things about, but there are also more simple options, like a Halo Bassinet, or a standard crib. You can get a minimalist one, the Sniglar, at Ikea for only $80.
- Portable sleeper
When your peanut sleeps during the day, which is a lot at first, it is super helpful to have a place to put them that is not in your room. If you are in the kitchen, family room, bathroom, etc. it’s convenient to have a portable and safe place to rest baby. The Fisher Price Rock With Me is a great option for this! If you want a bigger portable sleeper, the Graco Pack N Play is fabulous. It’s also a great double purchase so you can keep one at Grandma’s.
Swaddle blankets are hugely popular because they can be used in so many ways: swaddle, burp cloth, drop cloth for tummy time, and the list goes on. Swaddling can be a bit of an art though, and many a new parent complains of their baby working their way out of the swaddle. So I recommend swaddles that wrap and secure with velcro or that zip up.
Babies cry to communicate, you undoubtedly know. Their cries may signal being hungry, being tired, and being uncomfortable, such as in a soiled diaper.
They may also cry because of what is called the Fourth Trimester. Basically, in the first three-ish months outside of your cozy womb, your baby will want almost nothing more than to be back in there, what with all the swaying, warmth, white noise, rhythmic heart beat, safety and snuggliness.
Recreating the womb can be helpful to soothe your child.
- Noise Machine
Your womb is loud with gurgles and slurps and the resounding sound of your steady heart. A noise machine can be helpful so that your little one doesn’t feel like our world is so silent.
- Baby-wearing slings and wraps
When your wee bairn was inside of you, they were wrapped up tightly. Now that they are out they will learn how to stretch and grow in their strength, but they also will feel comforted by the deep pressure of a swaddle or of being worn close to your body. Baby wearing is a huge plus for keeping your baby content, and for you to tend to them while having both hands to do normal life things.
For advice on how to adult when you’re busy momming, click here.
Some babies are hugely comforted by sucking so having a pacifier handy is helpful. Like with bottles though, a baby will have their preferences so it can be a good idea to have one pacifier of several types to try out and see which they like before loading up. Just a heads up: pacifiers have shelf lives, and you should check for tears each use.
Babies pee and poo a lot. Like a lot, a lot. In the early days your little one will likely have 10+ diapers in a 24-hour period. And their sweet new skin is so delicate that frequent diaper changes are important. Sometimes their blowouts are best taken care of with a full bath!
So. Many. Options! If you are going to use disposable diapers, you could get a couple packages of newborn and size 1 diapers from different brands. Figure out which fit your baby’s unique shape best, and which are least irritating to their skin. Once you find “your brand”, load up on the bigger sizes. Even with disposables, there are some brands that are more sustainable and produce less waste. If you are doing cloth diapers, follow the recommendations of whichever brand and company you choose!
Most babies have sensitive skin, so I recommend alcohol-free wipes and ones made for sensitivity. Even still, some of them may sting so read your baby’s cues and adjust if needed.
- Changing pad and Cover (not necessarily a changing table)
You do not need a fancy or expensive changing table. I’ll repeat: you do not need a fancy or expensive changing table. It’s a furniture purchase that pretty much only has one purpose, and you can accomplish changes without it. All you need is a changing pad, or two, and a cover to wash. Keep one in the bedroom (maybe under your bed) that you can put on your bed for changes, and one tucked away in the living room that you can lay on the floor or rug for changes in there.
- Diaper pail and refills (if you want)
The beauty of a diaper pail is that it keeps all diaper waste in one place and can help contain smell. That said, newborn baby diapers don’t stink very much, and you can just toss them in the regular trash outside. Get it if you want, don’t if you don’t. But not a must-have.
- Bath Tub
You will want some sort of tub, sling, or container in which to wash your baby. When babies are wet, they are slippery, so having a secure spot to rest them while you clean them is great.
- Bath Towels
Baby bath towels are so cute with their little hood, and sweet colors and designs. They are often very soft and gentle on baby’s skin. Get these if you want them, but know a soft adult towel works just fine too.
Other baby gear you’ll want!
Once baby’s needs are met with the above baby gear items, there are only a few other must-haves left.
You can’t bring baby home from the hospital without one! There are SO many options depending on budget, aesthetic, functionality, etc. The biggest factors here are that the carseat — whether new or used — is not expired (yes they have expiration dates!), has never been in an accident, and meets regulatory safety standards.
If you want or need a stroller for walks with your babe, I do recommend you get a stroller that is compatible with or has adapters for your carseat. There are some strollers that have universal adapters too, so once you pick your carseat, then you can find a stroller that works with it.
Baby Basics Kit
Anxiety can run high when you’re a new parent, and having a kit for nail trimming, snot-sucking, gas-releasing, cradle cap-taming can bring some peace of mind. I am a huge fan of all the Frida Baby products!
Speaking of Frida…they make products for a newly postpartum mama too.
Also, you’ll want to read this post on how your partner can support you. There is a lot they can do to help make postpartum easier.
This is one of those items that is fun to shop for and can be a help in organizing all your baby stuff when you go place to place. If you are going to get one, I highly recommend a backpack style that stays put on your body (the one strap shoulder bags become annoying very quickly). There are lots of inexpensive and expensive options, and that said, you could also not get one and just use a normal backpack or bag.
Outside of these recommendations of the baby gear you will need, you may wonder about brands, other new gear, and fancy top-of-the line products. That can feel super overwhelming, and I found one of the best ways to wade through it all was to use Lucie’s List. They go through all the newest items and rank them based on several key factors and criteria.
And if you’re looking for a bit of levity during the heaviness that can be pregnancy (physically and emotionally), go check out Pregnant Chicken and subscribe to their newsletter (and subscribe to my newsletter while you’re at it!). You won’t regret it!
Best of luck, mama!
Christina is the writer behind the blog Real Life Mama. She is a mom two littles, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Christina and her family live in San Diego, where she is a full-time mama, part-time mental health therapist (LPCC), and round-the-clock blogger, writer, and author. If she ever gets a moment to herself, she can be found singing at the top of her lungs, cooking, and crafting. Thanks for reading!