Just about every single person I know is pregnant right now. Seriously, everyone. And I have gotten a ton of people asking me about what they need or what they should be registering for….maybe because I am slightly obsessed with researching things online?! After the third or fourth time I wrote everything out in an email, I decided it would be easier to just put it all in one place, so that hopefully it can help all you other expecting mamas out there.
In the beginning, there are very few things that you actually need. Diapers, a car seat, a couple of blankets and some loving arms to cuddle that bundle of joy all day and all night. You really could survive on just that. As much as I consider myself a minimalist, we had a lot more baby stuff than just those necessities. We did, however, try to keep it to a minimum, and I am so glad we did. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the “must-have” registry lists, and pretty soon your house starts looking like an episode of Hoarders meets BabiesRUs. This is a list of what we used most, and thought were the essentials.
Disclaimer: When it comes to raising your children, everything is a very personal choice. Breast vs bottle, crib vs co-sleeping, cloth vs disposable diapers, attachment parenting or babywise, this list goes on and on. Ultimately, the right choice is what works best for you and your family. I recommend educating yourself about all of the options, and then making a decision for yourself. Don’t make a decision based on what your sister or your best friend did, or what someone tells you that you should do. Throughout this list I write what we did, or what we used, but that is not to say that you should do the same. Do what works for you.
Crib | Your baby is going to need a place to sleep. Whether you choose to co-sleep, put the baby straight into a crib, or start in a something smaller in your room, the most important thing is to make sure it is safe. Check the Consumer Product Safety Comission for more information. We chose a crib with high safety ratings and non-toxic paint that would later convert to a toddler bed. I didn’t know how happy I would be that I spent hours looking for a crib with non-toxic paint when her teeth started coming in and she used her crib railing as her own personal teether.
Crib Mattress | Babies spend over half of their first year sleeping, so it is worth it to spend a little extra and get a safe and healthy mattress. We have the Naturepedic Organic Cotton 2-in-1 Ultra Crib Mattress, which is double sided, extra firm for a newborn, and a bit softer for a toddler, and completely non-toxic.
Crib Mattress Pad | If you spent extra to get an organic mattress, make sure you aren’t using a mattress pad filled with chemicals. The Giggle organic mattress pad still looks and works great after almost 3 years. We only have one, since I use a Waterproof Flat Pad over the mattress pad, under the sheet. Accidents never touch the mattress pad, so we have never had any middle-of-the-night emergency changes.
Bedding | This was the first thing I looked at when I started planning Avery’s nursery, and there are so many beautiful options. But I was paranoid and didn’t want a bumper or a blanket in the crib due to SIDS risks, (The AAP recommends against the use of any kind of bumper) so for us, it made more sense to just buy a few organic crib sheets and forgo the rest of the set. Recently I have seen some of the big bedding companies like Dwell (my personal favorite) now sell their crib bedding sets as separates, so you can choose the pieces of the set that you want and need, and not spend money on the rest.
Blankets | You will likely be given about 343 baby blankets as gifts. You are still going to want a few Aden & Anais 100% Cotton Muslin Swaddle Wrap, 4 Pack, Dreamer. These are soft, lightweight, and big. You will find a million uses for these blankets, in addition to swaddling your newborn. We still use them daily.
Swaddle | As long as we are talking about swaddling, do yourself a favor and get a Miracle Blanket. It really is a miracle. If they made these for toddlers I would likely still be swaddling Avery. We used it long past when the books tell you to stop swaddling. If you don’t have a baby yet, and think that wrapping a baby like a burrito is a little odd, read The Happiest Baby On The Block.
Sleep Sacks | Since I was against using blankets in the crib, the Organic Sleep Sack from Gigglewas perfect. It is basically a wearable blanket. Think zip-up snuggie for babies. Get 2 in each size so you aren’t standing at the dryer at bedtime like I did a time or two.
Monitor | We used a very basic Baby Monitor, and since we were in a small house, I sometimes felt silly carrying around the monitor when I could have just as easily heard her through the walls. We actually stopped using it after a while, but we still use the music on the base of the monitor every single night, almost 3 years later. If you want something fancier, you can get a video monitor, or even one that works with your iphone.
Chair | Not a necessity, but it is nice to have a comfortable place to sit during middle of the night feedings. We have a rocker / glider / swivel recliner that is the most comfortable chair I have ever sat on. I actually slept in it when I was pregnant.
Baby Seat / Swing | I really wanted to keep the baby gear to a minimum. I didn’t want a baby seat or a swing taking up any of our small living space. We ended up getting a Bouncer Seat as a gift, and it was actually good to have somewhere to put Avery down for a minute. I think a minute is about all she let me put her down for, but that’s another story.
Breast Pump | Recommended by my lactation consultant, and about half the cost of the Medela pumps, the Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump worked perfectly for me. (I would say I loved it, but how can you love a breast pump?) If you are going to be storing any milk in the freezer, stock up on Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags and get a Milk Storage Organizer for the freezer. Those bags multiply quickly.
Breast Pads & Nipple Cream | Skip the scratchy disposable breast pads and buy some soft bamboo pads from Bamboobino – super absorbent and comfortable. And for the pain…the pain that no one tells you about…you need some cream. I started using the Lansinoh lanolin cream, but it was pretty thick and sticky. The Earth Mama Angel Baby all-natural cream was so much more comfortable.
Nursing Bra & Tanks | Get a few well-fitting, comfortable, flattering nursing bra. I really like the ones from Bella Materna. The nursing tanks from Target are great for sleep, and to wear as undershirts. Glamour Mom also makes nice nursing tanks, and they are a lot longer than the ones from Target. (Nice to hide the belly that still makes you look 6 months pregnant!)
Burp Cloths | Skip the cute, patterned, frilly burp cloths and get a few packs of Gerber Organic Prefold Diapers. Bigger, more absorbant, and you can use them for everything! Once you no longer need burp cloths, you can use them for cleaning sticky hands and faces, wipping down high chairs, cleaning toys, etc.
Bottles | If you are bottle feeding, whether with formula or breast milk, you are going to need some bottles. I like both the Thinkbaby and the Born Free bottles because they can be converted to sippy cups. You don’t need many, because you will be washing them constantly no matter what. If you have a picky baby, like mine was, you may have to try a bunch of different nipples to find one that they like. Just don’t stock up until you know what works.
Pacifiers | Same as nipples, babies usually have a preference on which pacifiers they like. Some are easier for babies to keep in their mouths. After trying pretty much every nipple and pacifier available, we found that NUK was the preferred choice in our house. If you decide to use pacifiers, definitely get a little Pouch to keep them clean. They always seem to find their way to the bottom of the diaper bag.
Drying Rack | To keep your counter from becoming overrun with bottles, pacifiers, breast pump parts, etc, get a drying rack like the Skip Hop Splash. Doesn’t seem like a necessity, but it is. It also comes with a bottle brush, so you don’t have to buy that separately.
High Chair | Depending on your living space, and how you like to feed your baby, there are a ton of different choices for high chairs. We have the Svan High Chair by Anka. I love how it can be folded, and converted to a booster, but the finish wears off really easily and it looked very used after just a few months. If you don’t have room for a highchair at all, try a hook on seat like this one from Phil & Ted.
Bibs | When first starting solids, we used soft bibs that could also be used to wipe up any messy chins. These can definitely only be used once and then they have to be washed, but they seemed so much softer and nicer on Avery’s little neck. Once she was a bit older, we started using the BABYBJÖRN Soft Bib, which is most definitely not soft. But it is nice because it has a little pocket to catch the food and only has to be rinsed in the sink to clean it. If you are using soft bibs, get 6 or 8. With the wipeable bibs, you really only need 1.
Spoons | You will need some soft spoons, like the Beaba First Stage Soft Spoons when baby starts solids. We tried the Boon Squirt Spoon but it never really worked. I love the concept, but we never used super fine purees, so it seemed like the baby food would always clog up and was too clumpy.
Plates / Bowls / Containers | When Avery started solids, we just used little bowls that we already had. No need to buy anything specific. Once she started finger foods, the food went right on the high chair tray. It was when she started using her own plates that we had to get something non-destructable. These Soft Plates and Soft Cupsare good because they don’t slide or tip over. We also love the OXO Tot Fork and Spoon Setand the Skip Hop Zoo Plates and Bowls. For on the go, we use a NALGENE Kid’s Water Bottleand the appropriately named Zoli On The Go. I love that you can pack a few different snacks and it all stays together nicely. We still use it all the time. And we recently added the Zoli Sumo Snack Stacker, which is just like the On The Go, but bigger.
Baby Food | For making your own baby food (which is so easy!) you don’t need to spend money on the fancy baby steamer and blender. Just use regular pots and a regular blender or food processor. If you don’t have a processor or blender, you can use a simple Kidco Food Mill. It is much easier to prepare baby food in bulk, so freeze the extras in a container like the Beaba Freezer Tray.
Diapers | Cloth vs disposable…always a big debate on which is more convenient, more eco-friendly, more cost effective. Google it and you will find millions of articles on the topic. We started in disposable and then switched to cloth. Cloth diapers scared me before I tried them, now I love them…they are easy, cute, and save a ton of money. For cloth, we have used both the BumGenius and the FuzziBunz, and I like them both for different reasons. When we used disposables we used Pampers Swaddlers. I have heard great things about The Honest Company, but they weren’t around when we were using disposables.
Wipes | There are only two brands of wipes that I like, and they are both the generic store brand. Target’s Up & Up and the ToysRUs brand, unscented. I found Pampers and Huggies too thick to get into all the little baby parts. You could also try Cotton Reusable Wipes.
Diaper Cream | We never really had a problem with diaper rash, but if anything started to look a little red, a tiny bit of California Baby Calendula Cream worked like magic to clear it up.
Changing Pad | We didn’t have a changing table. We just set a changing pad on top of the dresser, which worked out perfectly. They make a bunch of different changing pads that can attach to the top of dressers. I really didn’t want to add anymore laundry to the already overloaded dirty basket, so I loved the Cooshee Changing Pad that could just be wiped down, no liner or cover needed. If there were any accidents on the pad, I sprayed it with vinegar and wiped it up with a pre-fold cloth diaper and it was good to go.
Portable Changing Pad | The little changing pads that come in the diaper bags work great for newborns, but after a while they are just too small. We used a FuzziBunz Fleece Changing Pad, which folds up nice and small and is machine washable.
Garbage Can | A diaper pail is something that is on most registry lists, but not at all a necessity. While we were using disposables, we had a little garbage can that we lined with old Target bags. At least once a day, we would tie the bag, take it out to the trash, and start over. Easy. Once we started using cloth diapers, we used a fuzzi bunz wetbag. Once it is full, or you are ready to wash, just throw all the diapers and the bag into the wash.
Potty Training | For potty training we used the BABYBJÖRN Potty Chair and BABYBJÖRN Toilet Trainer, and didn’t use any training pants at all. We took away diapers and went straight to undies. That experience could be its whole own post.
Bathtub | A very simple Infant To Toddler Tub that can be used in the kitchen sink or the bathtub is perfect. We used this from birth until almost two years old!
Hooded Towels & Washcloths | I searched and searched for a nice soft hooded baby towel. They are surprising hard to find. Most baby towels are thin and not very soft. The best I found is the aden + anais towel. And get plenty of soft little baby washcloths, you will use at least a few for each bath.
Bath Toys | We have a few different bath toys and we keep them in the Skip Hop Tubby Bath Toy Organizer so they don’t take over our bathroom.
Baby Wash, Lotion & Cream | Try to choose something very mild and natural, like California Baby Shampoo & Body Wash and California Baby Everyday Lotion. And of course California Baby Calendula Cream is my secret weapon. It works on diaper rash, cuts, scrapes, cradle cap, bug bites, dry skin…everything! We love California Baby, and also use their Sunblock Stickand Bug Repellant Spray.
Grooming & Medicine | All you really need is a basic baby comb & brush, a baby toothbrush, baby nail clippers, a thermometer, baby Advil and the snot sucker they give you in the hospital. For teething, try either some Homeopathic Teething Tablets, or an amber necklace.
Baby Proofing | Get a Baby Gate, outlet covers, cabinet locks and whatever else you need for your house before you think you will need it. Babies get mobile quickly. I found outlet covers and cabinet locks on freecycle.
Baby Safe Cleaning Products | Don’t waste your money on detergent and cleaning products made specifically for babies. The important thing is that you aren’t using toxic chemicals. You can use simple eco-friendly or homemade alternatives. Try this all-natural laundry soap and clean with vinegar and water.
There is nothing cuter than teeny tiny baby clothes. It is so fun to shop for baby clothes, and you will get a ton as gifts. Remember that in the first few months, babies outgrow clothes in a matter of weeks, so you really don’t need very much in each size. In the beginning, just keep it simple. Some good basics to start with:
•Kimono-style Onesies – Getting things over baby’s head is stressful in the beginning. I love the simple onesies from Giggle.
•Sleep Gowns – Nice for middle of the night diaper changes. We used the gowns from Baby Gap.
•Socks – The best I found were from Old Navy, they were the only ones that would stay on.
•One-Piece Snap-Up Rompers – They are easy. Enough said.
•Baby Shoes – Until they are walking around outside, shoes are just for decoration, and end up lost half the time anyway. For pre-walkers, Pedipeds are great.
•Other Baby Clothes – Some of our favorite places to shop for baby clothes are Target, Baby Gap, Old Navy, Giggle, Tea Collection, and Kicky Pants.
•Toddler Clothes – Zara Kids, Crew Cuts, Target and BabyGap are good places to start for Toddler Clothes.
Car Seat | After reading all of the safety ratings, we chose the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, and we were very happy with it. We used it from birth until 12 months. If you live in a colder climate, you need a JJ Cole Bundle Me for the infant car seat. I wish they made them in adult sizes because they are so cozy! After the first year, we switched to the Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat.
Baby Carrier | There are so many amazing baby carriers to chose from. If you try one and don’t love it, try a different style. We started with a Moby Wrap and a simple cotton sling. We loved them both, until she got a little too big and those carriers started hurting my back. So we moved into the Ergo Baby Carrier fell in love. Best baby carrier ever. I have also heard great things about the Baby K’Tan, but have never personally used it.
Go-Go Kids | I have written about the Go-Go Kids Travelmate before, but I will say it again. It is a necessity. I wouldn’t even attempt to travel with a toddler without this. Ever.
Diaper Bag | You don’t need a special diaper bag. Just get any roomy bag that you like, and throw everything in it. You will be much happier with a stylish handbag-turned-diaper-bag than with something that screams baby. The Skip Hop Pronto Changer is great to keep in the car or stroller.
Stroller | If you wanted to, you could probably have at least 6 different strollers for all sorts of different occasions. They make strollers for everything, and at every price point. We were limited on space, and I prefered to wear Avery when we went out, so we chose the Bumbleride Indie Stroller because it can do everything and comes in really great colors. It folds up nicely, isn’t super heavy, can be used as a jogging stroller or an off-road stroller, and has plenty of storage and a sun shade. And the best part, it comes with an attachment so that the infant seat can be used with the stroller. No need for an ugly snap-and-go! For the price, I don’t think you can get a better stroller.
Infant Toys | Another thing that people love to give are baby toys. If you aren’t careful your house will be an explosion of primary colors and blinking lights. I could go on and on about this topic, but lets just leave it at this: babies don’t need a ton toys, what they need is you. A few carefully chosen toys will entertain, not overwhelm, your little one, and keep you from feeling claustrophobic in your house.
A few good toys for babies:
•If you really want an activity mat, skip the big, expensive ones and try this simple one from Ikea
•Sophie the Giraffe – the best baby toy ever, perfect for teething and so cute
•A soft organic toy that baby can chew on like this Organic Giraffe
•A simple Natural Rattle or other wooden toy like the Skwish for baby to grip
•Stacking Cups or rings – Avery’s stacking cups are still one of her favorite toys
Toddler Toys | The toys start multiplying quicker and quicker the older your baby gets. I believe less is more.
Some good toys for toddlers:
•A sturdy walker – we have the Plan Toys Baby Walker which is great because it includes a set of blocks
•Chunky wood puzzles, like this alphabet puzzle
•A simple Shape Sorter
•A set of Wooden ABC Blocks
•A Xylophone and other simple musical instruments
•Crayons, finger paint, paper, coloring books, markers and other art materials
Books | If you don’t have a ton of space, skip out on toys and get more books! And if you do have a lot of space, get even more books. You should start reading to your baby from the very beginning. Choose what you like, since soon enough you will be reading Goodnight Moon for the millionth time! Some good choices for babies are Dr. Seuss books, Eric Carle Books, and anything else with bright pictures and good rhythm. For toddlers, expose them to everything, and let them choose what interests them.