The Essential Baby Checklist

What do I really need for baby???

Are you asking yourself this question right now as you walk the aisles at your local baby store? Has a feeling of overwhelm set in as you think about the hundreds of dollars you feel you need to spend now that you’re getting ready to welcome your little one? Which stroller to buy, which crib, how much gear? Swing, bouncer, jumper?? How do you decide? How do you do it all on a budget?

I’m here to help with that! Unfortunately aggressive marketing really pushes the need to get every piece of equipment possible on the market for new babies and can lead to overwhelm for new parents as well as a whole bunch of gear that might never end up getting used.

If you take a step back and think about what your baby needs for the few months, the needs are really basic and easy to meet. Baby needs you (your voice, your warmth, skin-to-skin and comfort) baby needs to be warm and dry, and to feel loved.

You can remember this very easily: Proximity, Play and Protection.

Luckily these three things are free, and my recommendations are not too extensive or expensive.

I have taken a minimalist approach to this list for a few reasons:

  • it’s budget friendly
  • it’s environmentally-friendly
  • less physical clutter= less mental clutter
  • purchasing less allows you to focus on higher quality items that are healthier and long-lasting

Here is my Essential Baby Checklist:

1. 8-12 sleepers and undershirts

For the first 3 months your baby will basically live in these. There are so many cute outfits available for new babies, but the reality is that they are not practical and most of the time they end up unworn in baby’s closet because they are complicated to put on, and get dirty very quickly. (my biggest pet peeve is hoodies because they always ride up on newborns and obstruct their faces)

2. Newborn diapers (1-2 packages only) or cloth diapers and Wipes

Babies grow out of newborn diapers so fast! 1-2 packages of them are often enough and then you’re ready to move on to size one. I see newborn diapers for sale so often on buy and sell groups. If you would like to read more about cloth diapering I’ve written a detailed post about what you need to get started, the finances of the whole thing and how to care for them.

3. Receiving blankets and washcloths

You will go through many of these. I don’t think I need say much more! Spit up, burping, leaking breast milk… these will be used. Often.

4. Tear-free shampoo and diaper cream

When you’re purchasing tear-free shampoo look for fragrance free. Ironically, baby products are some some of the worst offenders when it comes to fragrance.

5. Bedding

If you’re co-sleeping, then you don’t need any bedding. For more info about safely sharing sleep, I recommend “Sweet Sleep” by La Leche League, this article and the infographic right. (ref: Sweet Sleep) If you’re using a bassinet or crib then you’ll need fitted sheets and a mattress. The American Academy has released guidelines recommending that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first 12 months of life to reduce the risk of SIDS. In the early days, this can be done with a bassinet.

6. A soft baby carrier such as a ring sling
Most structured baby carriers are difficult to use with a newborn baby because they cannot spread their legs wide enough. They require an insert and can be difficult to get the baby in comfortably. A ring sling or woven wrap works very well from birth with no buckles, snap or inserts to worry about.

If you prefer a structured carrier then the Tula Free to Grow Carrier is a great option. It’s great if you can find a baby store that allows you to try on carriers- Ava’s Appletree in Toronto is a great option because they are extremely helpful when it comes to choosing a carrier that is right for your needs, and you’ll be able to try them out and feel really confident with your purchase. If you’re pregnant, you may want to bring a doll to help you get a better feel for the carrier.

7. A sleep plan or a postpartum plan

Infant sleep and the postpartum period are often forgotten or not given enough time and attention. I wrote a great post about postpartum planning here. Planning ahead of time can really help when the reality of new parenthood settles in. A well-thought out plan with resources and strategies that you created on your own or with the help of a sleep educator or doula can go a long way in helping you feel prepared and ready to relax into motherhood. I can help you with that if this grabbed your attention. Contact me here to learn more.

8. Nursing tanks, nightie or sleepwear

That’s right I’m not suggesting that you need to purchase nursing pads, a nursing bra or any nursing clothes. You may want these eventually, but I’m going to be honest with you here that for the first few months you’ll probably spend most of your time nursing your baby and be topless more often than you’d care to admit.

By the time the newborn stage is over, you’ll find your breasts and your body will have changed and Spring may have turned to Summer of Fall to Winter, and the clothing you invested in is no longer suitable.

It’s worthwhile to invest in a few tanks and some sleepwear such as a nursing nightgown or top and a housecoat if you like because you’ll spend lots of time in them. But even those are optional because you probably have a few tops that you can use that will work just fine in the early days.

Thyme Maternity and Momzelle are great resources for these. (Use the momzelle link here to save 20% off your purchase!)

9. An infant car seat (definitely) and a stroller (maybe)
An infant seat goes without saying if you ever plan to take your baby in a vehicle, and there are tons of travel systems available that include everything including the stroller. I have said the stroller is a “maybe” item because some parents use the carrier only and that works great for them. Personally, I have found my stroller useful in 1, 476, 989 ways– it doubles as a shopping cart for me, makes longer walks possible, and does give me some much enjoyed hands free time, sitting beside my napping baby and reading a good book on a park bench. So, I’m wary to say it’s not a necessity, even though it has the potential to be really expensive. My suggestion when deciding how much to invest in a stroller is to weigh the cost with how long you think you’ll use it and then pick the one that works best for your tastes and your budget.

Here are the Non-Essentials

1. A structured carrier (unless you use the Tula free to grow )

2. A swing / bouncer/ play yard

3. Pump
A pump has the potential to be a hefty investment and may end up being something that don’t ever use. If you find you do need a pump, assess the need at that time. If it is expected to be short-term, then you can rent the hospital pump for a month and then reassess at that point. You may decide purchasing a pump is the best route, but you may also no longer need to pump and save yourself $200-$500

3. bottles/soother/sterilizer
same as with the pump- these are things you may actually never use. Many families have bottles, soothers and sterilizers collecting dust in their homes and taking up space because they never needed to use them. In a pinch if you need to sterilize as a one-off event, you can boil the items to be sterilized for 5 minutes on the stove- and guess what: you already have a pot!

4. Crib
If you are entertaining co-sleeping on any level, a crib purchase (which can be quite expensive) can wait until a few months down the road. For the first year of life babies should sleep in the same room as their parents (even if not on the same sleep surface) so starting with a bassinet is more economical and gives you the chance to get used to life with your newborn and figure out what works best for you.

5. Nursing pads/Niple balm
Not all breasts leak and not all nipples get sore and cracked. These two items are readily available at Walmart or a drug store if you need them

6. jumpers/toys
You won’t need jumpers or toys for at least the first 4-5 months. For the first few months, babies are happy with you singing to them, talking to them, and playing sweet little games like peek a boo or just gazing at you while you make faces at them. The most important thing is your presence and your engagement. You’ll also be amazed at how many household items can double up as toys once your baby shows an interest. (you’ll also find that baby toys are a popular baby shower gift, so you can most likely avoid buying them yourself)

Do you feel like the first list is too short? That you still need to do more to be “ready”?

Here’s a little secret: the only thing that babies need are comfort, safety and your presence. I believe that in our culture, the consumerism that comes with pregnancy is a distraction from the true preparation needed to become a parent. It makes us feel as if we are “doing something” but the reality is that our baby doesn’t need all the gear. (Words I wish I had read when I was expecting my first baby!)

What can you do instead? What do you put on that gift registry that people are asking about?

Here are a few suggestions:

Direct your energy into filling your freezer with healthy meals that you can throw into a slow cooker. A great suggestion is making double batches of things such as soups, stews and chili and saving half in the freezer. You can also spend a few hours each week dedicated to postpartum meal prep.

Do some reading about the postpartum period and life with a new baby. Find out my suggestions on my post about postpartum planning here.

Instead of a baby registry, request contributions towards your birth doula, postpartum doula or creation of your postpartum and sleep plan.

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