When I was pregnant with my first child, I tried as hard as I could not to overbuy stuff. There’s no shortage of media out there trying to tell you all the things you must have for a baby. I wanted to be frugal and to avoid stuffing our small apartment to the gills. What I really needed to know was which things you need right away for a newborn.
I must have overdone it in terms of not buying stuff, because I ended up making an Amazon order with Next Day shipping from the hospital! It was just a few things we had missed, but I decided to keep track of all the things we actually used that first week, and sent the list off to a good friend of mine who was pregnant as well and due just a few months later.
Since then the list has evolved to help my sister-in-law with two babies, my own second baby, friends who have given birth, and now you! This list is partially based on a similar list from my childhood friend Bethany’s blog that I read years ago and bookmarked, long before I was even pregnant (or married, for that matter!). It was super helpful to me to look back and see what things she felt were helpful, especially when creating my baby registry.
Speaking of the baby registry, we managed to get 23.5% off the leftover items on our registry by combining the completion discount on the Amazon baby registry with the Discover IT fourth quarter cashback bonus. Read all about that baby registry credit card hack here!
So here you go: for my friends getting ready to have their first kids, anyone else wondering what things you need right away for a newborn, my lists of what we actually found useful and necessary:
For the Baby – Things You Need Right Away for a Newborn
If you’re more of a visual person, or you’re making an Amazon baby registry, you can find this list of Newborn Essentials on Amazon as well. It’s in their handy “#FoundItOnAmazon” format (hate the name, but it is useful!), where you can <3 items or quickly add them to your registry. Just click here or on the image below to be taken to the list on Amazon!
- Weather-appropriate outfits, including socks, hats, and mittens. The clothes themselves were hard for us because of my kids were both on the small side, but you make do with whatever pieces do fit. Take a few differently-sized outfits to the hospital with you for that first trip home. If you’re not sure what clothes you need, looking for a “layette set” like this super cute one can get you started, though I’d argue you need more sleeping “gowns” (or pajamas – get the 2-way zipper kind!) than just the one included in this set, and if your baby is due in a cold season, you’ll also need pants.
- Car seat. We went with the Chicco Bravo Travel System, though the stroller isn’t really necessary during Week #1, but it saves you money in the long run if you’re going to get a stroller anyhow. Install the car seat beforehand and get your installation inspected by a professional (it’s usually free). Sun shades are a good idea because your baby can’t shield themself!
- If your baby is due in winter in a cold climate, you’ll need a warm carseat cover. It’s not safe to put a baby in a car seat with a jacket on (you can’t get the straps tight enough against the chest to be effective in a crash), so this thing is a coat for the entire car seat, and it works really well.
- Diapers and wipes. We had bought the cloth gDiapers system (now discontinued, ALVABABY pocket diapers are a similar idea) but ended up using straight-up Pampers premie-size disposables for the first week and a half because we needed the smaller size. We’d end up getting a lot of mileage out of the cloth diapers later on, though—we’ve used them for two kids now!
- Diaper rash cream – Motherlove for cloth diapers, Desitin for disposables. Hopefully you won’t need it right away in the first week, but you will need it eventually and this way you’ll have it when you do.
- Vaseline (in a tube is easier than in a tub).
- Diaper pail. This one does double-duty for either disposable or cloth diapering (just need two reusable liners for cloth diapering). We eventually ended up with two diaper pails, since we did cloth gDiapers during the day and disposable diapers for sleep. This steel diaper pail ended up being great for the disposables, because it just uses regular 13-gallon trash bags.
- Changing pad. The great thing about this one is that cradle sheets fit it as covers, so if you have a cradle as well, you can get a bunch of cheap sheets to do double duty. The general rule is to get 3 of any covers/sheets (one in use, one for the drawer, and one in the dirty laundry at all times, haha!), but if you’re having them pull double-duty, then you’ll want to up that to 4 or 5.
- Cradle, bassinet, or even the full-size crib in your room so that you can get the benefits of co-sleeping (room-sharing, actually, in this case) without the risks of having the baby in the bed with you. You only need one of these at first. If you are really strapped for cash, go with just a Pack ‘n Play with bassinet. You’ll need a mattress (crib mattress or cradle mattress, bassinets & Pack ‘n Plays typically come with theirs) and sheets (crib sheets, cradle sheets, bassinet, or Pack ‘n Play) – I recommend 3 sets of sheets for whatever you’re using. (We did the crib in baby’s room, cradle in ours, and Pack ‘n Play in the living room… yes this meant we were kinda drowning in sheets, but we always had a clean one when we needed it!)
- Receiving blankets. We received so many of these from baby showers, and were so confused about what they were for at first. Now, we get it. They’re for everything. But mostly, swaddling. We received several swaddlers as well, but at least for Week #1, they were too big and we used the receiving blanket swaddling skillz my husband learned at the hospital, instead. Rectangular receiving blankets are easier to swaddle with than square ones. Square ones work well as burp cloths though, so it’s been handy to have both around.
- An emery board. Just a regular one with a lower grit size is fine. A so-called “baby” emery board came with the set of baby nail clippers I ordered, and that emery board was too small and crappy to be of any use. A regular one is fine.
- Emergency infant formula. If you are planning to breastfeed, it’s still important to have a little bit of formula on hand in case of an emergency. You’ll probably get several free samples throughout your pregnancy (I got 4 cans and some single serving packets – enough to last weeks!), just keep those in the back of a cupboard, because you never know. We ended up having to make one bottle of formula for Ditto on Day #1 at home, so it was really, really helpful that we had the formula on hand, and didn’t have to leave the house to buy some. If you are going to buy formula instead of relying on free samples, I recommend the premixed liquid kind, so you don’t have to figure out mixing and preparing formula while stressed and handling a screaming newborn… like we did.
- Wash cloths. You’ll notice the link is actually to “reusable wipes” – they’re cheaper than infant wash cloths, and although a little smaller, they do the same job and are nice and soft.
- Towel that doubles as another swaddle blanket.
- Rectal thermometer. Your baby probably won’t have a fever, but you’ll feel the need to check sometime when you can’t figure out what all the screaming is about.
For Momma – Things YOU Need Right After Having a Baby
In addition to the things you need right away for a newborn, here are some things that postpartum mothers will need during that first week! Again, if you’re more of a visual person than a list person, I’ve got you: this list of Postpartum Mom Essentials is also available as an Amazon list:
- High-fiber foods. Wegmans Fiber Essentials actually tastes really good. If you don’t have a Wegmans near you… I’m so sorry. I’m pretty sure it’s just generic Fiber One cereal. Or you can take your chances with Poop Like a Champion cereal (fair warning: I have not tried this). Other ideas: Lentils are high in fiber, as are brussels sprouts. Raspberries are surprisingly high in fiber, too!
- Nursing tank tops and nursing bras (get bras a size up from your pregnancy breast size – your boobs will continue to enlarge!).
- Reusable nursing pads. The ones from BreastPads.com are my favorites (the Medela ones have weird seams and seem to stick more – ack!) – use the code POORER35 to just pay shipping on 10 pairs (shipping costs are high, so make sure you use a promo code!).
- Lanolin salve.
- My Breast Friend nursing pillow – best nursing pillow there is (recommended to me by a friend with a bad back – and it really does help prevent back pain!), and it has a little pocket for your water bottle and snack bars. Oh! Speaking of…
- Water bottle (preferably one with a long straw) and snack bars for the thirst and hunger that will strike you while you’re nursing.
- Breast pump. The Obamacare law (ACA) currently requires that your insurance cover one for you every 3 years, so check with your insurance first! Manual breast pumps can run as little as $10 though, so worth grabbing one of those on your own (not through your insurance).
- Flanges for your breast pump that actually fit your nipple size.
- Hands-free breastpumping bra.
- Peri bottle (one for each bathroom in your home!). I got the Cadillac of peri bottles, the MomWasher, but the peri bottle that you get in the hospital works, too.
- Dermoplast. Just make sure you get the blue can, not the red can! The red can is not for spraying on lady bits – trust me.
- Witch hazel pads and hydrocortisone ointment. For preventing any lady bit stitches from getting itchy, because you do not want that.
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, generic, whatever)
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I originally read this book right before giving birth, and we referred to it many times during the sleep training process. I ended up so frustrated with the whole thing that I threw the book in the trash while crying, and then fished it back out while sobbing at my husband “This isn’t helping, but it’s all we’ve got tonight!” The next day, I ordered The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep-Newborn to School Age and we read the relevant chapters the day it came… GAME-CHANGER. I so wish we had read this book during pregnancy and never laid eyes on a word of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
- Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool. This one is a bit of a “cheat” because I didn’t actually have this book when my son was a baby, because the book only came out in 2019! But this book does such a good job of covering things about postpartum recovery and breastfeeding that other books miss, as well as several other early childhood topics. Get it and read it before your due date, you’ll thank me later.
- The Happiest Baby DVD. Formerly known as “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” Don’t worry, the DVD is only an hour long, and it’s super valuable info. We borrowed it from the library, because once you’ve watched it once, you can look up small refresher videos on the 5 “S”s in the video on YouTube.
Nice-to-Haves – Extra Things That Help With a Newborn Baby
- Changing pad liners, and mattress protector for the crib or for the cradle or for the bassinet – they just make cleanup soooooo much easier and faster. (Remember the “cradle” ones also fit changing pads!) Reusable “puppy pads” can also be used under a crib sheet (the XL size is almost the same dimensions as a Pack ‘n Play, and covers most of a crib mattress) or placed on the floor for tummy time or diaper changes – they’re very versatile and we’re still using ours for potty training backups now.
- Some friends told us to skip the changing table as we would only use it for a few months (and then start changing the baby wherever), but I’m glad we didn’t listen to this advice. Both my husband and I already had sore backs at the end of the first week – I can only imagine how much worse it would have been without the changing table. It is the highest, most comfortable place to do anything with the baby (diaper changes, clothes changes, temperature readings, cleaning out eye boogers…). It was a real back saver.
- Pack ‘n Play with bassinet. (Even if you already have a crib/cradle/bassinet.) Another back saver – we set ours up in the living room to get the baby used to the sounds and busy atmosphere of our apartment as much as possible. But it also makes for a useful place to put the baby down, swaddle the baby, a second place to do diaper changes, etc.. And of course, it became very useful for travel later on. We didn’t know Pack ‘n Play sheets were even a thing at first, but duh, of course they are.
- Prefold diapers, but we didn’t use them as diapers. I mean, you totally could (and we meant to), but we were happy with gDiapers. So why even have them on here? We used them so much (and continue to do so) for other things. Anywhere we needed an extra layer of absorbancy, we threw down a prefold: On top of my breastfeeding pillow under my baby’s butt to prevent diaper blowouts from soiling the pillow. On the shoulder as a super-absorbant burp cloth. Under the baby when going diaper free to clear up diaper rash. We’re still using them today!
- Microwave sanitizer bags. Save yourself the trouble of sanitizing all your new bottles, pacifiers, and whatnot on the stove, and just pop them in the microwave with these do-dads.
- Mirror for the car seat. It drives me bananas whenever I’m in a situation where I’m driving Ditto in his car seat with no mirror. I think it drives him nuts too, since babies love to look in mirrors. In that first week, they don’t have the vision to see themselves in the mirror though, so it’s only for you at that point.
Enjoy the first week! It really is a bit of a honeymoon period… sorry to say. 😉 But hopefully this list of things you need right away for a newborn helps prepare you for the road ahead.
If you’ve found this list helpful, let me know in the comments below! I’m considering making another list of additional things that we got a lot of mileage out of during our baby’s first year. I’d love to hear from you as to whether you want that!
And for the parents who have been there, did I miss anything? 😀