Having children is expensive, there is no denying it. However it doesn’t need to be nearly as expensive as the retail outlets would like you to think. Working out the bare essentials for a newborn can be confusing when everyone is trying to sell you something. Knowing what your baby actually needs, what is an useful extra and what will really sit in the drawer probably untouched, is a bit of a guessing game, until you have been there.
The Bare Essentials for a Newborn: What does a baby actually need?
A baby needs some way to stay warm, some way to be fed, some where to poop, some where to sleep and a parent who loves it. That’s the bare basics.
For the absolute bare minimum a baby needs, at a pinch, you could get by with a large swaddle (or two), some cloth diapers, some boobs full of milk and a loving parent figure who is happy to share their (safe) bed.
However, there are a few more things that would really be helpful for you and your newborn, almost essential to modern life with a baby.
Essential Newborn Clothing
Don’t go crazy buying new born clothes! Babies don’t fit them for long (some never do) and people will give you lots of newborn outfits at your baby shower and once your baby is born.
On the other hand, do buy a couple of outfits just in case, we only had 2 newborn sized outfits and had to venture out on a shopping trip on the way home from hospital to get two more. This was NOT what I really wanted to be doing 24 hours after giving birth!
Ask around – you will be surprised how many people are willing to lend you their newborn things, babies are in them such a short time, and with careful washing they stay new looking for a long time.
Bodysuits: You need 6-7
You want short or long sleeved depending on how hot it is where you are. Bodysuits are useful as they avoid the clothes all riding up every time you hold baby by their torso, they act as the singlet layer when its cooler and as a t-shirt when its hot.
Body suits with envelope necks that stretch over the head and clip together between the legs are the easiest to put on and off – important when dealing with poo-splosions, as you can also remove them down over the bottom.
Ideally you will use organic cotton bodysuits like these ones.
Growsuits or Rompers: You need 4-5
Growsuits can be worn day or night while babies are young, merino is IDEAL for new babies as it helps them regulate their temperature. Choose growsuits with press studs that go all the way down the inside of the legs for ease of nappy changing. Get 4 or 5 in newborn size and 7-10 in the next size up. I LOVE these merino growsuits.
Hats: You need 1 warm and 1 sunhat
Select an infant sun hat that can be thrown into the wash because babies are MESSY! You want one that has a brim that’s big enough to shade baby from the sun.
Choose a warm hat that doesn’t have a cuff as these can unroll unexpectedly and cover your baby’s eyes and face, which can pose a safety threat. Ones with ties stay on much better than those without. Get one warm wooly hat and one sun hat.
Warm things: Jackets, jumpers, cardigans – You need 3-5 Newborn sized
Select outer wear that can comfortably fit another layer or two underneath so you can easily keep baby warm. Find a local Nana and see if they will knit you something, or look at the hospice or secondhand stores, they often stock handmade nana-cardys.
Socks: You need 4-6 pairs
Consider choosing one color for all the socks for each size, this makes pairing them up SUPER easy. You will lose many socks and being able to pair up odd socks will save you having to buy more.
Bibs: You will need at least 10
Paying for quality really does pay off with bibs or feeders. When it comes to eating solids I recommend getting some sleevey-bibs (ie ones with sleeves). They save a lot of washing. Again the good quality ones last much longer than the cheaper quality ones.
To start with you will just need bibs for dribbling and mopping up spills, so the thick cotton ones are the ones that you want.
Burp Cloths: You will need at least 5
Baby’s spill and puke, it is what they do. Burping cloths sit over your shoulder and catch the spills and save you washing your whole top several times a day. They are worth the investment.
Swaddles: You will need 2-3
My babies mostly lived in a diaper, bodysuit and a swaddle for their first 2 months, of course they were given plenty of not-wrapped-up-tight time, but they preferred to be snuggled in, as do most babies in the 4th trimester.
Buy a good quality, large swaddle. There are all sorts of fancy ones on the market, but I prefer a simple flat one that will work as a cot blanket later on. Merino is amazing as you can use it in the hot and the cold weather, muslin is also fantastic. Aim for a swaddle that is at least 44 inches square for a newborn. I prefer one that is 50 inches for older babies.
A baby bath is handy, but a kitchen sink is much easier to fill and empty. Some babies go straight to showering with mom or dad. Which ever you choose always keep your grip hand soap-free, those bubbas get SLIPPERY!
Babies don’t really get dirty, and I am all for natural things, so don’t go crazy washing baby with harsh soap. Warm water removes most things, and a very mild bar soap in small amounts will wash anything that needs more, including their hair.
Babies with eczema should avoid anything with Sodium Laural sulphate as it is very harsh on their skin.
Again go for something natural, and some thing as simple as olive oil would work. Earth Mama makes a nourishing natural baby massage oil.
You can buy specific baby cloths and towels, but the ones you already have at home will work just fine! If you are using cloth diapers, buy a bulk pack of cloths and keep them at bottom cloths for baby. Avoid using wipes if you can, they are well know to cause rashes and reactions.
Changing Time Essentials
It is well worth doing the maths on buying a good set of cloth diapers. They do up with either Velcro or domes and are very easy to use and to wash.
Modern cloth diapers don’t need soaking and just wash in a normal wash. We worked out for us buying 15 reusable nappies saved us over $1000 in disposables in the first year alone. Once you have a second baby the savings get crazy good!
I love the Grovia ONE system. The world of cloth diapers is a very long rabbit hole, there are too many choices! My advice is to ask you friends what they use, and then just choose something and give it a go.
Some babies have skinny legs, some have chunky ones, so the fit varies for brand to brand and baby to baby. We have used mostly one size fits all options (OFSA) for all 3 of our kids from about 12 weeks to about 3 years of age. As they are getting worn daily for 3 or more years, it is well worth while buying quality. You will still save thousands over the course of your baby’s diaper years.
Again natural is the way to go, something as simple as coconut oil can act as a barrier, moisturizer and anti fungal/antibacterial all in one. For more intense barrier/moisturizing try Earth Mama’s Angel Baby Bottom Cream.
These are helpful but by no means essential. A simple blanket on the floor will do just fine, once baby starts rolling (as young as 10 weeks!) change tables are no longer safe to use. If you would like one, choose a change table with a shelf underneath to store your changing essentials.
Sleepy-time Essentials for a Newborn
Bed sharing, when done properly, is the cheapest safe option for a sleep space for a newborn. Babies only use a bassinet for about 12 weeks, so don’t spend a lot on buying one. Ask around you may well be able to borrow one. My favorite is an Arms Reach bassinet.
The other option is to go straight into a crib/cot. Buy the best quality one you can afford and it will last all your kids and re-sell well too, or look for a good condition one second hand. If buying second hand, check that it meets the USA safety standards and that all the bits that are supposed to move do so and those that aren’t, don’t.
Don’t go crazy buying bassinet bedding, a pillow case makes a great fitted sheet, and crib/cot blankets folded in half will work well if they are needed. If baby is swaddled they won’t need much by way of blankets anyway so you are better off spending the money getting a good couple of swaddles.
Out and about Essentials for a Newborn
Baby car seat/capsule
Legislation concerning car seats and infant restraints have changed in recent years so ensure the car seat you plan on using complies to current legislation. If you are planning on having more than one baby it is often cheaper to buy a capsule then hire it more than once.
Try to road-test friend’s buggy or stollers before purchasing your own. This can be one of the most expensive baby purchases you’ll make and finding a pram that serves your purposes is important. Despite the style you like, make sure it is easy to open and close, and preferably fits in the trunk of your car with ease. Personally I loved the large-wheeled 3 wheeler jogger styled pushchair. They are so much easier to walk with!
Rain cover for the buggy
Some strollers have their own rain covers which can be bought separately, but you can buy universal rain covers that are designed to fit various styles of buggy and these are generally cheaper than the branded version.
Road-test slings and pouches with your baby in place before you purchase – you need to find one that evenly distributes baby’s weight, is comfortable and is the right size for you so you don’t hurt your back. I love the Boba wrap and found it amazing for getting out and about without needing a stroller for the first 6 months.
Choose a bag that is big enough to house the essentials but not so big you could move house in it. A “good” diaper bag should have internal compartments, a ‘wet area’ and a fold able change mat. Buy a quality diaper bag, as you will take it EVERYWHERE for the next 3 years.
The Bare Essentials for a Newborn
This is the bare minimum that I would recommend that you get for your new baby. I’m quite sure you will end up with much more than this thanks to friends and family gifts, but this is the basics that you would need to survive the first 6 months with your baby.
With anything you need to buy look out for lay by options, big sales and second hand goods. Luckily most of us get at least 7 months warning that baby is on its way, this is plenty of time to look around for bargains and pay things off if need be.
Is there anything you wouldn’t be without? Feel free to comment below!