What do you really NEED for baby’s first year?

There are a lot of posts about what to ask for on your baby registry. A lot of content around shopping lists, hospital bags, and what to buy for your infant. This may be because, for many of us, shopping is fun!  Not only do many of us enjoy heading to Amazon, our favorite baby store, or Target on any given day, collecting items makes the experience of welcoming the new addition to the family that much more REAL.  It also soothes those nesting urges.

But what do you really “need” for your baby’s first year?

With all of the information out there it can be easy to be distracted by things that are cute rather than things that are necessary. Or, important items can be missed in the overwhelm of suggestions. Our team has shopped for a new baby more than once and have worked with a LOT of women who have done the same. So, we are breaking down the basics for you here with this “start here” shopping list.

If this is helpful please watch for our next post, “What do I need as a new mom?” where we will discuss breastfeeding supplies, bottles, self-care, and things that will make your experience easier.

Good luck! 

What do you really need for baby’s first year?

Start by planning out what you need for the first three months

Download the pdf of our registry

Diapers: cloth or disposable (or a bit of both). If disposable, buy small packs of a few different brands so you can figure out which one you like most. If cloth, consider buying a pack of disposable diapers to give you time to get the hang of the cloth diapers.

Baby wipes: Our favorite are Water Wipes. They are great for sensitive bottoms but are a little on the pricier side. There are many options and you can always start with a few samples and then pick your favorite.

Cotton onesies or kimono shirts. These are simple, comfortable for baby and easy to take off and put on. You will change your baby several times a day so easy-to-maneuver pieces are essential. A go-to outfit at home that we love for newborns is a kimono shirt, diaper, and swaddle. If it is cooler, add on cotton pants, socks, and a hat.

Diaper bag: It does not have to be an actual diaper bag, it just has to work, and should be as lightweight as possible. It has to be big enough to hold the things you need and have the right type of pockets to organize everything you want with you. If you go for a diaper bag, look for ones that can clip onto a stroller handle and that can be worn cross-body or over the shoulder. Make sure you would be willing to use it even when you don’t have diapers in it. One of us used a cute light weight tote and had small colorful zip-up bags inside it to organize the contents.

Cotton outfits. Make sure they are weather appropriate, easy to put on and take off and that you like them.  The same goes for  Cotton hat, mitts, socks.

Diaper cream or ointment. A simple barrier cream is what you need. There are many options. We like zinc based creams.

Swaddle blankets. The key here is the fabric and the size (45 in. or 115 cm.). For warmer months you want cotton muslin or bamboo and for cooler months you want cotton flannel. Make sure to have a variety of options. They are versatile. You can use these swaddles as burb cloths, nursing cover, a quick sunshade, a playmat, etc.

Changing pad or changing table. If you have a changing table, you can get a changing pad and covers for it.  We opted out of a changing table.  You can simply get a waterproof changing pad to use on the floor or on the bed when you change the baby. We recommend a wipeable changing pad cushion like the Keekaroo Peanut. There are different brands and price points. What makes these change pads amazing is that they are easy to clean, comfortable for the baby, and portable. Once your baby becomes mobile, these will come in handy because you can change the baby on the floor and not worry about the baby falling off. Some moms also use these pads for tummy time.

Sleeping space. A safe place for baby to sleep (bassinet, co-sleeper, or crib). You can even start with a baby box (literally a special cardboard box for a newborn to sleep in). The point is to know how you want to sleep (same room, separate room, etc) and then arrange a safe place for your baby to sleep.

Car seat. This too will depend on what your daily routine is like. If you plan to use your car a lot and take the baby from the car to a stroller on a daily basis, buy an infant car seat. If you have a car but do not plan to be regularly in and out with the baby, you may want to go straight to a convertible car seat that can grow with them. You should pick the seat based on its safety scores, size (so it fits in your car nicely), and price point.

Carrier. There are so many options when it comes to babywearing. Check out our post on Black Babywearing Month to see five of our favorite companies selling wraps and carriers. For newborns, you may want to explore wraps and cloth carriers that are easy to breastfeed in and are designed for smaller babies.

Stroller. Pick one based on how you will be using it. For daily runs or walks, pick one that works for that. If you need one that compliments your car and easily folds in and out, focus on that. If you have two children or plan on having two close enough in age to both be in a stroller at the same time, buy a stroller that can accommodate a second seat. For public transport in urban areas, choose a stroller that is narrow, not too heavy, and folds up easily. If you travel a lot, get a travel stroller that folds into the overhead bin of an airplane as your second stroller. Having to wait at the gate with cranky children is the last thing you want to do after a flight.

Baby bathtub. Simple is better here. Get one that you can use for a while and will accommodate both a baby that is unable to sit up and one that is learning.

Baby oil or cream for massage. Olive or coconut oil is great for baby skin and babies love massages.  You can get baby creams if you like, just make sure they are delicate.

Baby body wash. Keep it simple. Stick with products that are gentle and don’t use too much soap on baby skin. Our children had sensitive skin so we barely used soap.

Baby’s first year: 0-3 months nice-to-haves:

  • Sound machine so that you don’t have to worry about noises waking your baby. We recommend avoiding the speaker-based options and getting a fan-based one like the Marpac Dohm.
  • Tummy time mat or a blanket, something they can play on during the day. We used one of a variety of blankets we already had in the house. Some parents love tummy time mats specifically designed for babies, with patterns and colors.
  • Blackout shades/curtains for bedtime. Babies are light sensitive. If you don’t have a curtain rod in the room, there are great curtains you can suction onto a window.
  • Sun hat and breathable long sleeve clothing for brief time in the sun.
  • Mobile or rattle for fussy changing table moments. This will be useful closer to 3 months.
  • Dim soft light lamp for nap and bedtime routine.
  • Baby swing or baby rocker. These can be SO useful when you need to occupy the baby for a bit in between naps (solo bathroom breaks, anyone?).
  • Bottle warmer. This just saves time. Make sure you get one that heats the milk in such a way that it preserves all of the good stuff in it.
  • Bib. A waterproof terry cloth bib is great for babies regardless of whether they breast or bottle feed. Babies often spit up and having a bib can save you another outfit change.

 4-6 months

  • Clothing and diapers in the right sizes (and a lot of them!). You may want to play around with these items in the first few months and find what you like before buying too much for this time.
  • Teething toys: Sofi the giraffe (babies are obsessed), nuby banana teether toothbrush, teething necklaces (worn by mommy).
  • Simple and tactile toys
  • Board books
  • Crib, if ready for that transition

 6-12 months

  • More clothing and diapers!
  • Age-appropriate bottles
  • Age-appropriate spoons, plates, and utensils. You will likely end up with two different sets of utensils.  The ideal spoon for an adult feeding a baby is different from the ideal spoon for  baby trying to learn to feed itself (this happens later).
  • Highchair. A place for the baby to sit upright safely for meals (like a high chair)

Baby’s first year: 4-12 months nice-to-haves:

  • Baby walker
  • Mesh or silicone food feeder. These are great for breastmilk or frozen fruit/veggie popsicles which soothe teething gums GREAT!!

Parting thoughts

You can choose to be minimalist about your newborn shopping.  There are always new products on the market for babies.  It can be overwhelming to have to choose from such a big and constantly changing selection of things.  Also, remember that preparing for baby also means making sure you prepare for the changes in family routines and prepare for support.  Childcare tips for new parents: making it work and lessons learned.