Babies come in cute little packages, but their “accoutrements” can add up if you’re not careful. Having a baby doesn’t need to cost a fortune or suck up space. Be minimalist; babies don’t need more than food, clothing and diapers, a place to sleep, a safe place to be held, a car seat and yes, lots of love and cuddles.
The 7 baby essentials
1. Car Seat (Buy new to ensure it is recall-free and meets current safety standards)
If you are planning to co-sleep, do so safely. Many parents also find it helpful to have Baby’s bed in their room for the first few months, such as a pack-n-play with bassinet attachment.
3. Blankets and burp cloths (5-6 blankets, thick and thin ones, plus several burp cloths)
Suggestions: Thin cotton muslin blankets are versatile for swaddling and using as a nursing cover. Specialized swaddling blankets (SwaddleMe, Woombie) can make swaddling easier.
4. Diapers and Wipes (cloth or disposable)
Build a cloth diaper stockpile slowly or ask for cloth diapers as gifts. Start stockpiling disposables on sale (sizes N-3) before Baby comes. Tape the receipt to them to make returns/exchanges simple. Use a changing mat or changing pad instead of a bulky changing table.
Research your options—some parents like using stroller frames, such as a SnapNGo, for the first six months and then switch to a fold-able “umbrella stroller”. Others prefer convertible stroller systems, lightweight strollers or jogging/all-terrain strollers for outdoor use.
6. Baby Carrier and/or Bouncy Seat
Suggestions: Sling, Wrap, Mei-Tai or Buckle-Style such as the ERGObaby.
Baby carriers allow you to safely carry a baby hands-free, making daily life easier. Wearing your baby close also soothes them and promotes bonding. If you choose to babywear, do it safely.
The listed carriers are preferable to the “Baby Bjorn” type since the baby’s legs are not left dangling, which is more comfortable for parent and baby. See Babywearing International for more information.
7. Clothes (7-12 onesies, 7-12 “footie” sleepers, 2-4 pairs of socks, 2-3 caps, 3-4 pants, 2-4 bibs, sweater, warm hat)
Feeding items: Bottles, 2-3 nursing bras, milk storage bags, and electric breast pump OR bottles and formula.
Breast pumps can be rented monthly from the hospital. Illinois Law allows for women enrolled in Women, Infant and Children (WIC) can get money for a pump and feeding supplies. Head to La Leche Legue for breastfeeding information.
Extras: Hygiene items, pacifers, first aid kit, tub, breastfeeding pillow, exersaucer or activity mat, some toys/teethers, 2-3 “going out” outfits, swing, high chair, pack-n-play, waterproof crib pad, rocking chair or glider, storage unit such as a dresser, baby monitor (skip for apartment/condos).
Skip: Gimmicky baby gear, overpriced décor, baby DVDs, excess toys/fancy outfits, snow suits, changing table, bassinet, crib bumpers and bedding sets, walkers, Diaper Genie, wipes warmer, shoes (except Roobeez), buying clothes too far in advance.
So how do you prepare for Baby on a dime?
- Borrow it: Borrow gear like swings, Exersaucers, etc. from friends no longer using them and pass it on when you’re done with it.
- Accept gifts with grace: Freely and graciously accept people’s gifts and offer to help. Even if you find you cannot use it all, pass it on. It’s possible to get many free clothes this way.
- Buy used or get it free: Used baby items at garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist are ubiquitous, and second-hand children’s resale stores and sales sell quality items for a deep discount. Free baby items pop up often on Freecycle.
- Comparison shop and use coupons: Look up the best bargains from the Baby Bargains book, then use coupons at Buy Buy Baby or other stores. Some will even price match.
- Wait after the shower or baby: It’s fine to convert duplicate gifts into store credit after the shower, but it’s also smart to return/exchange gifts for items you need after Baby’s arrival since then you will have a better idea of your needs.