The Only Things You Really Need to Buy Before Baby
If you listen to the internet, it sounds like you might need a second mortgage to pay for all the things you "have" to buy before you have a baby. After my first was born, I realized I didn't end up needing half of what I had bought.
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There is truly a terrifying amount of physical crap required to take care of 7 pounds of human.
Some things I totally understand. Car seat? Yup. Please don't let that thing ricochet around back there. Diapers? Yes sign me up.
However, there is a part of my being that fundamentally rebels against the sheer number of items, products, gadgets, gizmos, and "too cute to pass up" things that are foisted upon pregnant moms.
I was just beginning to do the dreaded "baby shopping" when I was around 7 months pregnant (and it all the sudden was seeming very real that we would soon be having an actual, physical baby, not just the abstract concept of a baby we'd been talking about this whole time). I walked into the big box baby store near our house and mentioned the word "registry" when an overwhelmingly large list was shoved into my hands.
(Disclaimer: I might have seemed like easy prey for the sales lady because I probably...okay definitely asked baby questions in the least societally acceptable way possible. I probably said something like "how do we sign up to...um...buy the baby cages...I mean cribs and the chew toys...I mean teething stuff? Is that right babe? How do I pregnant?".)
Helpful Stuff and Not Helpful Stuff
So yeah, I might have been an easy target for a quick sale, but still. This list was in the smallest print imaginable and was at least four pages long. I've since discovered that some baby lists are more helpful than others. For example, I would have killed to read this post on $719 Worth of Free Baby Stuff when I was pregnant.
The list my now-terrified, pregnant, past self was handed was simply unnecessary.
Back then, I simply muddled through the best I could, buying what I thought we must somehow need and drawing the line at some of the other items on the list. (I flat out refused at the little device that helps you suck mucus out of your baby's nose. Hard pass. Unsubscribe.)
Now, after having gone through the entire infant/baby phase and successfully entered the land of toddlerhood, I can officially say that 70% of the things they foisted upon us were absolutely unnecessary and some of them never even got opened.
So, for all my readers who are eagerly planning the arrival of a new small human, I wanted to make the list I wish I had been given back then.
And without further ado, here are the seven things you actually need before baby comes.
#1) A Car Seat or Infant Car Seat
This one they literally don't let you leave the hospital without. Seriously, we had ours all set up in the car (we got an actual car seat, not an infant carrying case, so it was legit strapped in to the point where Bigfoot couldn't have torn it out) and they made my husband bring it in so they could make sure we had one.
So this is definitely a must. And, since NO ONE seems to want to explain this to people (or to me at least) let me clarify that a "infant car seat" is a seat that gets strapped into a car and stays there. An "infant car seat" is a seat with a handle that you can snap in and out of a base...and that base gets strapped semi-permanently into the car. Why no one wanted to explain this to me I have no idea.
Whatever it's called, one of these devices is the only thing you literally NEED before they let you out of the hospital with the baby.
#2) A Stroller
While it is completely possible to carry around your new little potato by hand (trust me, I mostly did), it is necessary for a new mom's physical and mental health to be able to get exercise. Let me tell you, when you strap your little critter into the stroller (and witness the soothing magic of the rocking and bouncing that seems to hypnotize almost all babies immediately) you get a few minutes of that doing-stuff-with-two-hands freedom you used to take so for granted in your pre-mom days.
#3) A Bassinet or Crib
Next, your little potato needs somewhere to sleep. This one is hard because with all the panic about SIDS (which is a valid safety concern, but is also stated in a way more alarmist tone than I feel is logically necessary) people buy all kinds of sleeping locations, devices, gizmos, gadgets, etc. I know we purchased at least two sleeping arrangements that our critter literally never slept in once.
While the three nights I tried in vain to get our restless infantmonster to sleep in her crib before I finally began hallucinating, caved, let her sleep on my chest, and reveled in the unparalleled glory of her sleeping for five hours straight are a whole other story, they do go to prove that no matter how much your pregnant self thinks they know about your future child's sleeping patterns it can always change.
While I was pregnant I thought for sure I would drop my baby off to sleep in her own crib in her nursery and make sure she stayed there from day one. Almost three years later and my daughter literally just stopped cosleeping last week. I've had friends who swore they would cosleep and then needed nothing more than a few hours of uninterrupted rest away from their screaming, little bundle of joy.
I'm not saying that you don't know yourself or your future child, but things do change, so try not to purchase enough furniture to last to their eighteenth birthday before they even make their appearance. That said, the following are all the products I wish I had purchased the first time around with my daughter. They're perfectly practical for infant sleeping whether you want them in their room or right next to your bed, and nothing's so expensive that it can't be replaced with something that better meets your needs once you actually make the acquaintance of your progeny.
#4) A Baby Monitor
This one isn't meant for your rational, evolved, grown-up brain. No, no...this is a present for your reptilian hindbrain that, even in the depths of new mom sleep deprivation can't fall asleep unless it knows the baby is safe, secure, and unlikely to be carried off by predators. Seriously, I would complain all day about how tired I was, but the second I laid down (finally!) and shut my eyes, all I could think about was "Is she okay?". Inconvenient, but probably necessary for the species to survive, so I'll let it slide.
You want a baby monitor as consistent as can be with a video screen that lets you stare at your new little cute thing. I honestly couldn't sleep without holding the screen in my hand for a while. Trust me, this one is actually worth the hype.
#5) A Minimal Amount of Clothes
This one is always the hard part. You want to buy clothes. They're the cute part. The part you've been dreaming about. And then all your friends and family want to share in your joy as well. Pretty soon, your not-yet-born baby has a full wardrobe that might last them into elementary school. Seriously, when my daughter was born we had a hard time making sure she wore each outfit a friend or relative had gifted us at least once before she outgrew it. (Life hack: put a tag on the outfit with the name of whoever gave it to you so you can snap a picture and text it to them when they do wear it.)
Also, once you know your baby, you're going to want to shop for them just as much (actually, more). Buy enough onezies to get through a few weeks of not doing laundry, splurge for the pajamas with magnets instead of a zipper (late night diaper changes go from level 12 torture to mildly unpleasant once the wrestling match with a zipper is removed from the equation), and get a few cute outfits for when people come to see the baby for the first time.
Also, make sure you stock way more hangers than you think you'll need. Clothes just magically appear at your house somehow throughout the first few years. It seems like everyone wants to contribute to your new addition's wardrobe. No one will bring you hangers. Get lots. Trust me.
Other than those few items you really need in the first three months, they're going to grow so fast that you won't have time to use much else.
#6) A Small Supply of Diapers (and Formula)
I'm not sure about other hospitals, but the one where we had our daughter sent us home with a few dozen diapers, some free formula, and a "made in California" onezie. (We made jokes about a "baby starter kit".)
I'm not saying not to stock up on diapers, especially if you have older kids so you already know what brand you like. I am saying that the magical interwebs will ship more diapers to your door, for free, in two days or less, and can be ordered from your phone while you breastfeed. There's no need to buy enough diapers to swaddle a baby army.
Similarly, you don't have to go crazy with the food. We had a dozen bottle/nipple varieties, a pump, and several types of formula purchased and on the ready, but our daughter literally never once took a bottle. She went straight from nursing to drinking juice out of my rinsed out and subtly-refilled Chick-fil-a cup. (She wanted to be like mom, but I was pretty sure "Dr. Pepper" shouldn't be her first words.) You especially don't need to go formula-crazy at first if you plan to breastfeed for a bit.
It's not like you're having a baby and then going on a year-long camping trip. The. Store. Is. Still. Right. There.
#7) A Few Swaddling Blankets and Burp Cloths
I could literally build an entire tent city out of swaddling blankets. If swaddling blankets were money, our daughter would have been raised in a golden palace and teethed on diamonds. I have no idea what made us think one human child with a normal number of arms and legs had need of that many swaddling blankets, yet to this day (and she's three now) I'm still finding swaddling blankets stashed around our house.
So here's what you actually need: enough of the larger swaddling blankets (bigger blanket = wiggle room for less-than-perfect swaddling technique) to last between laundry cycles and about as many burp cloths as there are days in the week (assuming you'll go through two(ish) a day and do laundry twice(ish) a week. Again, no need to drown yourself in unnecessary hordes of rags. Trust a seasoned mom, they'll usually just use your shirt anyway.
Literally, That's It
In my humble opinion, those are the only truly necessary things to buy before the baby comes. Yes, you will need more than this to sustain them for the next few decades, but all of it is better procured at a later date. Baby proofing doesn't become necessary until your baby can move on its own, which is (at very minimum) a half a year away. Clothes will be purchased as the baby grows (or whenever Target gets cute new things in stock and you can't help yourself).
Now, don't take this to mean I'm telling you not to shop for your new baby. If you want to shop, shop! However, I know I felt a lot of pressure when I was pregnant that if I didn't have every baby item known to mankind pre-purchased and set up that the stork would come snatch the baby back or something.
Don't get freaked out by the giant lists or the hype. You're preprogrammed knowing how to be a mom. You've got this, and you don't need material junk in a nursery to make you feel prepared. Just love the darn thing and you're golden.
If you really feel the need to shop, don't leave home without our free printable Minimalist's Baby Shopping List. It'll keep the judgy sales clerk from forcing you to buy four years worth of onesies in one sitting.
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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