Which baby products are essential for the first year? Here is a list of the main things you will need for your newborn but keep in mind, every baby is different in what they like or need.
“I think that as new moms many times it’s great to get advice but all babies have individual preferences. Some babies like swings while others don’t. One piece of advice I would say is if you can, try it out first before you buy a large item.”
– Choua Xiong
Baby clothes are usually sized as preemie, newborn, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months. Some babies never need newborn sizes (they go straight to 3 months), but that’s hard to predict in advance, so you may want to have some on hand. Also, babies grow quickly, so make sure you have the next size up!
For everyday wear, think comfort and ease. Look for soft, roomy, durable clothing that allows your baby the freedom to move and explore.
Here is a list of basics your baby will need:
One-piece outfits (10-15)
Some of these are basically spiffed-up jammies appropriate for sleeping and playing – and because babies nap so frequently, especially at first, these are super convenient. Look for one-piece outfits that zip or snap down the front and all the way down the leg; these allow you to change your baby’s clothes easily without pulling things over her head. Make sure whatever you buy opens easily at the bottom for diaper changes.
Shirts – or onesies (10-15)
Look for T-shirts and turtlenecks with plenty of room in the neck, or snaps at the neck, so they slip easily over your child’s head. Many parents prefer styles that go over the tummy and diaper and snap at the crotch.
Leggings or pull-on pants (10-20)
Separates allow you to change one piece of dirty clothing without assembling a whole new outfit, so they’re useful to have on hand. Look for stretchy waistbands that fit easily over your baby’s diaper and belly – and expand as he gains weight.
Outer layers (5)
Sweaters, fleece jackets, and sweatshirts that zip up are easy to put on and take off. Many small children don’t like pushing their head through a small neck opening.
Buy larger sizes and look for items with loose armholes that won’t require tugging and fussing. Hoods are helpful for this age – just slip one over your baby’s head when the temperature is chilly.
A broad-brimmed sun hat for the summer and a warm hat that covers the ears in the winter should do the trick.
Socks or booties
You’ll need lots of socks for indoors and some booties for outdoor wear.
Although they look cute, you really don’t need any shoes until baby starts walking. An “extra” that you may find is not worth the time or money.
There are three things to think about when dressing your baby for bed: your baby’s comfort, his safety, and your ability to get to the inevitable middle-of-the-night dirty diaper. No matter how cute it looks, avoid sleepwear that has complicated snaps or requires lots of effort to get on or off.
“The hospital put our son in a little white, cross-fold shirt, which have become known at our house as “Luke Skywalker” shirts. I got three of them. Wish I had grabbed more. He wears them at night, and since they don’t cover the diaper, it’s one less thing to mess with in the middle of the night.”
– Eric H.
BREASTFEEDING AND BOTTLE-FEEDING
Specially designed to support your baby while you’re nursing or bottle-feeding, these can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck during feeding sessions. They’re more convenient – and better at keeping your baby in position – than regular pillows.
Newborns usually start with the 4-ounce size, but you’ll need some 8-ounce bottles as your child begins to drink larger amounts. You’ll also need at least as many nipples as bottles. When it comes to what kind of baby bottle to use, some parents insist on ones that don’t contain phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). Debate continues over the harm either chemical may cause humans. If you’d rather err on the side of caution, look for bottles marked BPA- and phthalate-free – or go for glass bottles.
Bottle brushes (2)
These are handy for thoroughly scrubbing small parts and crevices in bottles, bottle parts, and nipples.
there are many brands to choose from, including organic nursing bras until you know how long you will be nursing baby. Lactation consultants will recommend waiting to be fitted for a nursing bra until your milk comes in – approximately a couple of days after having baby. Having a couple of nursing camis until this time is helpful.
“Cake nursing bras are great – you can find at Nordstrom – comfy and supportive. I still wear mine and I’m not nursing anymore.”
– A Prepare The Nest Mom
“Sport bras with breast pads worked well for me.”
– Pallavi D.
It’s normal for your breasts to leak while you’re nursing, and disposable breast pads – or reusable, washable ones – will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.
Your insurance company may cover the cost. Call the Breastfeeding center at the hospital you are delivering at to see what kind they recommend for your situation or ask a friend what they recommend.
Breast milk bags
You can pump milk straight into a bottle, but many women use specially made plastic storage bags, which don’t take up much space in the freezer and can be defrosted easily. The number of bags you’ll need depends on how often you intend to pump. Start with one box and work from there.
Burp cloths (6 to 12)
To catch spit-up and wipe up other baby fluids.
You don’t have to buy a freestanding highchair. A seat that hooks onto a counter or table, or a portable highchair that attaches to a regular chair, can work fine as well – especially if you want to save space. But a full-size highchair with a tray can make cleanup easier, and rolling wheels allow you to move the chair from room to room if you prefer this. Look at ones that are easy to clean – you can count on food getting mushed into every crack.
Bibs (5 to 10)
Plenty of styles are available. Little cotton bibs for newborns that drool a lot or if during a feeding, milk runs down their chin and neck, these are helpful to avoid changing wet clothes all the time.
Whether you use cloth or disposable or something in between (some diapers use a reusable cover with a disposable lining), your baby probably will go through ten to 12 diapers a day at first, so plan on stocking up. However, they will grow out of the newborn size very quickly so limit the number of newborn size diapers you buy.
Whether you plan to buy wipes or use a washcloth and warm water, you’ll want to be prepared. Wipes can be used for a number of tasks, not just diapering.
You don’t have to buy an official changing table, but you’ll probably want to have some designated place for diaper changes. Some parents use a changing pad or just a towel on the floor or bed. You could also put a changing pad on a dresser with a basket full of diapers and necessary essentials nearby.
“I love the Honest company!!! For some reason, having cute diapers really does making changing diapers a more pleasant experience. Their wipes are the only ones that don’t irritate my baby.”
– Michelle L.
“I did get a few cloth diaper shells and inserts (Grovia brand) but haven’t used them much. I liked the idea of cloth diapering but to be honest I couldn’t handle the laundry commitment! Even if you have a huge supply of cloth diapers, you are doing laundry daily or every other day, that’s in addition to the amount of laundry that already comes with a new baby!
Basket to hold diapers
You will want diapers/creams/wipes within reach since you never want to leave baby unattended on the changing table.
This is the pad that goes on a dresser or changing table to lay baby on for diaper changes.
Changing pad cover (2-3)
If you use pads described below, you will only need a couple of these changing pad covers.
These are small cotton pads that are placed on the changing pad cover to keep it from getting stained. You might launder one of these a day.
Some babies will need cream to help clear up a diaper rash or prevent one. Check out Pinterest for our favorites.
Choosing a powder without talc is recommended. Powder will help to dry out baby’s bottom and help prevent diaper rashes. You could always use a washcloth or other means to dry baby’s bottom if preferred. Check out Pinterest for our favorites.
Pick out a cute one – you will use this a lot.
Disposable bags for diaper bag
When you are restaurants or out shopping, many times there will be a sign posted that asks you to take the poopy diaper with you. You will be glad you have these.
“I strongly recommend 2 strollers, one quick, lightweight, easy to collapse stroller (I keep mine in my car) and one good jogging stroller for walks, runs, etc. They both serve different purposes but a joggling stroller is a must, as babies will bounce around too much in a plastic wheeled stroller. BOBs are obviously great, I personally have the Baby Jogger City Elite stroller and I love it”
– Kristen S.
There is a lot to consider when purchasing a stroller. Think carefully about your specific needs: Do you want storage space to make shopping with your baby easier? Do you want a seat that reclines for easy napping? Will you be climbing up and down a lot of stairs? Is having a lightweight stroller important to you? How easy is it to collapse and open? Is there a place for your coffee? Are you or your significant other, tall people that require an adjustable handle? Where will you be using this stroller – jogging or shopping in small aisles where the turn radius is important? Most parents will purchase a couple of different kinds of strollers.
A safe car seat is mandatory. Tempting as it may be, resist buying a used car seat. Safety regulations have changed over the years, and you need to make sure your baby’s car seat meets all current guidelines. (They actually have expiration dates, usually within five years of manufacture. Check the seat for a sticker.) You might want to purchase an extra base if you have two cars that you will be transporting baby in.
Wearing your baby means your little one gets to snuggle close to you, and you’ll have two free hands to tote everything else. This is a great way to get things done around the house or run your errands.
Although many parents swear by slings, this type of baby carrier has been linked to injuries and suffocation in babies. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has safety tips for parents using slings.
Also called a bouncer, these baby seats bounce up and down when your little one kicks or moves. It’s a handy, safe place to put your baby down (thanks to the attached straps), and many babies love the motion.
“I think having two bouncy seats is great, one for the living room and one for the bathroom or just outside the bathroom so you can shower and get ready in the morning.”
– Holly W.
Your baby doesn’t need a lot of fancy playthings, but it’s nice to have a few rattles, musical toys, and soft toys at the ready.
Chunky board books are a great way to introduce reading to your baby.
Crib and mattress
Many new parents don’t need a crib right away, choosing to use a bassinet or play yard with bassinet feature or bring their newborn into their bed instead. But you’ll likely want to move your baby into a crib sometime in the first year, so it’s helpful to have it set up.
Many parents will choose to have baby sleeping close by for those frequent feedings and thus a portable place to sleep near parents is helpful for the first few weeks or months. Remember to buy sheets and mattress pad for these.
Though you’ll see plenty of fancy bedding sets in baby stores, all you really need are about three to five fitted crib sheets a couple of waterproof crib mattress pads. In fact, the bumpers, pillows, quilts, and soft blankets that often come with baby bedding sets shouldn’t go in your baby’s crib because they increase the risk of SIDS.
Wearable blankets (2 or 3)
These fleece or cotton sleep sacks zip over your baby’s sleepwear and keep him warm at night. They replace traditional blankets, which aren’t safe for sleeping babies because of the risk of SIDS. You may or may not need these depending on the season your baby is born.
Swaddling blankets — receiving blankets(3)
Many newborns love to be swaddled, and having a few blankets made just for this purpose can make your life much easier.
“Stock up on swaddle blankets. Some nights we went through a few of them due to diaper leakage accidents. Same goes for crib or bassinet sheets.”
– Eric H.
“We discovered the Velcro swaddle blankets too late, wish we had used them earlier. When the baby is screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of the night and you haven’t slept, embrace any opportunity to make the soothing process easier – Velcro is one of them”
– A Prepare the Nest dad
These gadgets – which come with a transmitter and at least one receiver – allow you to keep tabs on your baby while you’re in another room. The transmitter needs to be close enough to your baby’s crib to pick up sounds (within 10 feet) but far enough away to ensure that the cord’s out of reach if there is one. You can opt for a traditional audio model or a fancier (and more-expensive) video monitor that lets you see your baby
Countless hours will be used in a rocking chair for feedings and bedtime stories.
“We still use our rocking chair several times a day. Get a comfy one to support moms head, an ottoman, and make sure arms are padded as you will rest babies head on the arm rest. We breast feed here, bottles, books, quiet time, etc!”
– Kristin S.
BATH & HEALTHCARE
There are lots of choices out there. Remember, they will outgrow this stage quick. Lots of options for space saving are available or you can go fancy with a spa tub for baby.
Not only will you use washcloths for bath time, but they are handy to have in the kitchen to clean baby up after messy feedings.
Hooded towels (2-3)
These are just adorable and will keep baby warm from head to toe.
Some babies are born with long nails and will need their nails filed right away. One of the best times to clip or file baby’s nails is while they are sleeping.
A soft-bristled baby brush
This is especially helpful for handling cradle cap.
Your baby will cry if soap gets in their eyes and it is not ‘baby soap’.
Use with saline drops to clear your baby’s stuffy nose.
Your pediatrician will give you dosing instructions if needed for baby. It is nice to have these on hand for unexpected illness.
Some babies love them, some don’t. Pacifiers aren’t a necessity by any means, but for some parents and babies, these soothers are an essential item.
Chewing on these can ease your baby’s discomfort during teething.
Lanolin ointment (available in many drugstores) can help relieve sore nipples. And hot/cold gel packs, which fit inside your bra, can soothe swollen or sore breasts.
BABY EXTRAS (optional)
What baby products make life easier in the first year? We talked to parents and gathered together some favorite gear, clothing, and product “extras” – things that might not be considered essential for raising your baby but sure can help.
Say adios to lingering diaper smells and mess with an airtight pail (also known as a diaper hamper) that seals and stores dirty diapers until you’re ready to wash them (for cloth) or throw them out (for disposables).
Baby wipes warmer
This gadget may not be the first item on your list, but warm wipes can help ease the surprise of a cold wipe on a bare tushie, especially in the middle of the night. Some babies might get so used to a warm wipe though, that they don’t handle the cold wipes well when out and about.
Unless you want your hands smelling like Desitin and never quite getting that greasy feel off of your hands, you might really appreciate this new product on the market.
Portable Crib or Play Yard
A folding, portable crib or play yard can come in handy in all sorts of situations. Use it for overnights at Grandma’s or as a safe, contained place for your baby to play at home or while traveling. Many new play yards come with a built-in diaper changing table, a removable bassinet, and even a mobile.
These are soft mats with baby toys that dangle from overhead. Young babies (who aren’t mobile yet) can have a ball staring and batting at the toys. Fancy versions feature lights and sounds, too.
If it is cold outside, these sleeping-bag-like sacks can come in handy. You put them over your baby’s car seat or stroller to keep your little one warm when you’re out and about.
This is a handy, compact place to air-dry all those nipples, bottles, and sippy cup parts after you wash them.
Dishwasher Basket for Bottle Parts
This allows you to run all your small bottle parts (like nipples and nipple rings) through the dishwasher rather than hand-washing them.
On-the-Go Container for Formula
It’s the perfect way to pre-measure formula before you leave the house. Just add water to the bottle and you have an easier time feeding baby while out running errands.
You can use a bowl full of warm water to heat bottles of breast milk or formula, but a bottle warmer is might be more convenient.
These waterproof mats go under your baby’s highchair and protect your rug or floor from food spills.
A freestanding swing gives you time to prepare a meal or just take a break while your baby rocks back and forth. Most babies outgrow these within four to six months, and not all babies take to them. But a good baby swing can be a lifesaver during the early weeks and months – some newborns are instantly pacified by the motion.
These spring-loaded seats are designed to hang in a doorway, allowing your baby to bounce independently. But doorway jumpers can fail – clamps fall and cables break – and bouncing babies can bang into the walls. Consumer Reports recommends a stationary activity jumper instead, which you should stop using once your baby can walk.
An activity center (aka play saucer) keeps older babies propped upright safely in one place while they grab and manipulate various attached toys. Some babies love these; some don’t. They’re most handy when your baby is around 6 to 10 months old, though they can be used from 4 to 12 months.
These feature moving toys or designs, sometimes accompanied by music, to mesmerize your young baby. They usually attach to your baby’s crib, though some can be fastened near the changing table to distract your baby during diaper changes. One caution: If the mobile is attached to your baby’s crib, you’ll need to remove it for safety reasons when your child is 4 to 5 months old.
It’s nice to avoid turning on a bright light for the middle of the night feedings or diaper changing.
A touch lamp is perfect for dim settings and no noise with switch to wake baby up.
Many babies sleep better, or fall asleep more easily, with the drone of soft “white noise” in the background. You can buy a freestanding white-noise machine or a stuffed animal with a noise machine enclosed inside.
Lovey or Soothing Blanket
This used to be called a security blanket and many babies/toddlers use them to soothe themselves or cuddle.