Here is a minimalist list of what I personally used when preparing for the arrival of my first baby. I’ll also share some of my personal experiences with having a newborn in making a case for why you might not need a specific item Target has on its shelves.
I am fortunate that I’m both a minimalist and cheap so I got the bare minimum based on my personality quirks and was never a parent who had to learn that you don’t really need all that plastic junk to have a baby. Unfortunately, many new parents are buried under a mountain of plastic learning too late that they didn’t need it all. Babies are easy, for the most part...
Before I get to the list, keep this in mind when getting baby items especially clothes, toys, or strollers: Kids grow so fast or items used so little that many parent friends might be THRILLED to give you their stuff so someone can make use of it. I know of many people who buy a one-time-use outfit for a photo or buy something that they didn’t realize they wouldn’t use. My husband and I passed down an amazing crib to a cousin because we had no more use for it once our daughter was done with it. My girlfriend and I have 3 girls between the two of us and we passed clothing back and forth as the girls got bigger. Of course, ensure certain items are still safe and to code (transportation and sleeping items), but none of us are too good for hand-me-downs. (Plus, think of all the chemicals only time and many washes can get out of new clothes and bedding.) Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, Once Upon A Child, and Craigslist are excellent resources.
- Baby Carrier: My husband and I had two different carriers. One was made more for an infant and was a wrap-style, Baby K’tan Original Baby Wrap Carrier . The other, we used for YEARS, the Beco Gemini Baby Carrier. This item was key for us as we travel regularly and travel light. I was that mom carrying a baby in front and my carry-on backpack in the back. (Diaper bags and car seats are usually free baggage as well for flights.) We’ve also used our baby carrier while hiking with a 4 year old. When she got tired, one of us would carry her like a backpack. Keep in mind the weight restrictions of course but of all the items we ever got for our baby, this is the one we used most oftenand longest.
- Infant Car Seat: This item is an obvious buy. If you give birth at a hospital, the staff may even check to see that you have one installed in your car.
- Stroller (not essential): You may not need a stroller at all as babywearing is much easier, in my opinion. If you’re an avid runner, it might be a good investment but shopping, walking, errands are all easier when you’re wearing a baby in the front and carrying a small bag in the back. My husband and I used a stroller since we were outside often in Florida whether we were at our gym working, walking/running outside, or literally at theme parks. It was a great place to store our reusable water bottles, food, diapers, and a safe spot for our kid to sleep. Our stroller and infant car seat clicked together and made it convenient overall.
- Portable Bassinet: We didn’t need a crib for the longest time. Since I was breastfeeding, it was easier to have my baby right there with me in my bedroom. Babies also don’t need separate beds to sleep in for night and for naps so a small and safe spot to sleep is all you need. Making it portable just makes moving it from the bedroom to the living room easier. You can also bring baby’s bed with you when traveling. These bassinets have gotten even fancier with all these sound, vibration, and swaying features too. I’d get something like the Fisher-Price Soothing Motions Bassinet.
- Mattress sheets: Obviously. We only ever had two because two is all you need.
- Pacifier: We didn’t use pacifiers for the longest time until I realized how much easier it was for my daughter to pass out sucking on my pinky finger. To avoid getting her in the habit of sucking on fingers or thumbs, we eventually got pacifiers. Just two. You don’t need to go overboard.
- Swaddle: Whether you use a velcro swaddle (which was VERY useful for us) or thin swaddle blankets, you don’t need more than 3 of them. This is why baby blankets are pretty useless. So don’t buy baby blankets. They’ll have onesies and swaddles to keep them happy. Learn how to swaddle properly and tightly. They love it!
- Cloth Diapers and Wipes: Kids go through so many diapers in their childhood that if you’re going to invest in anything environmentally-conscious, please choose reusable cloth diapers. My husband and I used these items when buying cloth diapers and wipes were an expensive initial investment. Now, you can get a quality set for under $40, which is amazing to me. You might need a newborn set too but these covers are adjustable and many babies don’t need newborn sizes for long so it is possible to find used cloth diapers in great condition. There are many facebook groups dedicated to trading and selling cloth diapers if you’re more budget-conscious. Don’t let the idea of convenience talk you out of cloth diapers. Once you have a routine, it’s easy and cloth diapers are way cuter. They also look great at the beach compared to seeing a water-logged diaper. You also don’t need a wipe warmer. If you want a way to store wipes in a solution, reuse something you have on hand made of glass.
- Cloth Diaper Reusable Wet Dry Bags: You’ll need a bag to store all the used diapers especially when you’re out and about.
- Baby shampoo: If you’re already using a zero-waste, natural, and vegan soap for yourself, why use something different for the baby?
- Boppy Pillow (not essential): There’s a reason these pillows are so popular. I used it during every breastfeeding I gave my daughter at home. You’ll notice a difference in how fatigued your arms will get when you’re feeding away from home too. These pillows are also great for generally holding your baby if they’re napping in your arms. My daughter eventually grew into it and we used the pillow as a gentle support while she was learning how to sit up on her own (with supervision, of course).
- Milk Catcher: This item may seem silly, but I wish I had this when I was breastfeeding. I would leak through my pads and shirt on the side my daughter wasn’t actively breastfeeding on. It would have been beneficial to catch all that milk to help build up my stash. If I ever need one in the future, the Mommyz Love Breast Shell and Milk Catcher is what I would get.
- Breast Pump: Did your best friend or family member just get done using their breast pump? Ask if she can pass that down to you. If not, look for a used closed-loop breast pump. It’s better than buying new and very budget friendly. While storing milk, if we ever got to the point where we had more than we needed, I would donate to Human Milk 4 Human Babies . This organization is great for getting mothers in touch with each other moms via local facebook groups so you can help feed another baby in need or receive milk for your own baby if you wanted to avoid formula as much as possible.
- Milk Storage Bags: If you’re cycling through milk very quickly because you’re a working mother who pumps all the time, forget freezing and using storage bags. Store your milk in glass jars in the fridge.
- Bottle: You can buy silicone nipples that go on mason jars, the same jars that you could store your pumped milk in. This is super convenient!
- Reusable Breast Pads: This was another gift I never knew I needed. Leaking through
your shirt is a common issue. The gift I received was actually the disposable kind so naturally, rather than buy more, I just bought the reusable pads.
- Nursing Tank Tops: This is a personal choice on what kind of nursing tops you’d prefer. I like tank tops best as you can always wear it as is when warm or pair it with a cardigan when you’re cold. It’s the minimalist in me that keeps it simple.
- Silicone Teether/Toothbrush: You could also go with the frozen washcloth to help soothe babies gums and teeth.
- Don’t buy clothes until you’ve had a baby shower (if you plan on having one). I literally did not have to buy clothes for my daughter for the first 3 years of her life. After that, again, it was a lot of hand-me-downs. Many clothing items are rarely used as the baby grows so much in the first couple of years. But still, people can’t help themselves when it comes to buying baby clothes.
- I’ll give you a tip on receiving fewer baby clothes: we didn’t tell anyone the gender of our baby until the day of our baby shower so we wouldn’t have 50 pink onesies thrown at us. Because of this, we didn’t receive as much in clothing, which was great. Babies don’t really need a lot. You’ll get plenty of onesies, which is mostly all you need.
- Instead of giving you a list, I’d rather say, limit what you get. You do not need a bunch of hats and a million socks. Babies don’t do much. Onesies are useful because they can be messy and might need to be changed out of something that was just pooped on but otherwise, if you find yourself lacking at any point, go to second-hand shops like Once Upon A Child to fill in the gaps. Remember, most clothing is barely used so shop second-hand.
Things you don’t really need:
- Diaper bag: I’m sure you have PLENTY of bags or large purses in your home. You really don’t need as much on you as you think you do when running out the door for errands. I usually stuffed a couple of diapers and wipes in my purse and I was out the door. I had a couple of boobs on me at all times so baby food was also never an issue. 🙂
- Crib: You do not need this right away. Again, a reminder, our daughter slept in my room for a good long while since she nursed at night. The bassinet will work perfectly for a long while until you hit weight capacity or until your baby starts moving more. I’d suggest looking on Facebook Marketplace or the like for a safe second-hand crib.
- Blankets: You’ll probably be gifted some anyway but babies don't use blankets. It’s a hazard to their breathing.
- Bouncer: What did babies do before these things were invented? My husband and I did what we called “lazy parenting”. We were fans of tummy time and I truly believe that because we did it so much, our kid was rolling, holding up her own head, crawling, and walking with that strength built up. If you want a place to put your baby so you can do things around the house, baby wearing is an amazing option.
- Baby Food Makers: Not only do most of us already have great blenders in our homes, but baby-led weaning is very popular. I didn’t know what we did was baby-led weaning. Again, I called it lazy parenting and I fed my child the softer foods of what I was already eating. I truly believe this is why my daughter is such a great eater and has never had food texture issues.
- Baby Food: With baby-led weaning, it’s just much easier to feed your baby what you’re already eating (assuming that you’re eating a diet rich in whole plant foods). Avocados, fruit, legumes, sweet potatoes, etc were already on my plate so it was easy to let our daughter eat these foods too.
- Bottle Warmers: This is just more plastic cluttering your counters. To warm up milk, we would heat a coffee cup of water and warm the milk by putting the bag in the now hot water. We also realized that our daughter wasn’t picky and she’d drink the milk without it being warm.
- Diaper Genies: When we had a soiled diaper, we would scrape off any thick or chunky bits into the toilet, maybe give it a rinse, and put it in the wet diaper bag that we stored in the bathroom. Since washings happened about every 2 days, there was never a need for a diaper genie.
- Bottle Sanitizers: We used our bottles so few times that we just boiled water and gave the bottles a hot bath to sanitize everything. Eventually, we were completely fine with washing the babies stuff the way we washed our own dishes.
- All the plastic extras that you wont use: toys, swings, chairs, etc.