If you are like me, you’re on a budget an low on space. We travel a lot, too. Moving from place to place and living temporarily, we’ve learned what is actually necessary. If this is your first child, you probably have no idea what your baby is actually going to need to survive, and everyone is trying to sell you things. They’re going to try to tell you that you need a humidifier, burp cloths, and the 10,000 other things Amazon wants you to register for. I’m going to tell you what no one else will: YOU DON’T NEED MOST OF THAT.
Seriously, the pregnancy hormones are probably driving you crazy and making you desire all these things. It’s called nesting, and it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, your house will never be cleaner. On the other hand, you probably want to buy all the things. Don’t. It’s a waste of money and space. This is the bare-minimum list of necessities your baby will need to survive the first year. Trust me, everything else is a luxury, or at the very least, a convenience. If you need to prioritize or just want to invest your money in the right items, this is what you need.
A Safe Place to Sleep
This is the #1 most important thing on the list, and probably the most expensive. It’s no longer acceptable just to put the baby in a dresser drawer with some blankets. In fact, you shouldn’t even be using blankets. If the purse strings are really tight, I recommend a pack ‘n play or portable play yard, whatever they call them where you’re from. They’re cheaper than a crib, and I promise your baby won’t care about the lack of padding.
There are some other bonuses of a pack ‘n play – they often come with bassinets for tiny babies, diaper changers, and adjustable bed heights. Pack ‘n plays can be moved from one room to another with ease. It’s a good place for tummy time and to keep the baby away from dangerous things once they’re mobile. When we were in between houses, we used a pack ‘n play for our son’s only sleeping place for two months.
Diapers and Wipes
This should be a “duh” thing. If you can and are willing to put in the extra work, invest in cloth diapers from the outset. Cloth diapers are way cheaper in the long run. Disposable diapers disappear really, really quick, especially when you have an newborn and you’re going through 10 a day. I know the $200+ investment in cloth all-in-ones (the cloth diapers that you change just like a disposable) seems like a lot of money, but you’ll spend that much on disposable diapers in about two months.
Wipes, while cheaper, are kind of the same way. The best part though is that you can go to a fabric store, get a yard of terry cloth (towel material) or fleece, cut it up into squares or rectangles, and make a wipe spray for like $15 total. Don’t buy the ones from the store – it’s not worth wasting your money. If you’re concerned about washing baby poo all the time, don’t be. You get used to it really quick. We’d just rinse everything in the bathtub as soon as we were finished changing and throw it all in the washer at the end of the day. No stink and no mess.
Only if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding. You should probably have one or two even if you are – I had two and used them relatively often even though I mostly breastfed. Sometimes we’d be out in public, having lunch or something, when the baby would get hungry. I didn’t want to miss out on the social activities by hiding somewhere for 30 minutes, but I’m also not really comfortable whipping out a boob while everyone else is eating. It happens. You have to be realistic sometimes.
If you don’t plan on breastfeeding at all, you’re going to need a few bottles and invest in formula.We used Phillips Avent Natural bottles – they have a nice glass version, and all they have sippy cups and transitional cups that fit the same nipples. It was a cool interchangeable system. It gets expensive though, so if you’re trying to save money, give breastfeeding a try first. Personally, I hated breastfeeding; its not for everyone. Ultimately you have to do what’s best for you and your family.
You can get a plastic bowl for baby food at a dollar store, but what you’re really going to need is spoons. Not forks or plates, just spoons. I recommend ones with thin, flat, flexible tips, like these ones by Munchkin. You don’t even need a high chair. You shouldn’t be feeding your baby solids until they can sit up, and then you can just prop them up in a couch corner or using rolled blankets. Or you can just feed your baby on your lap.
Car Seat, Maybe
Obviously, you only need a car seat if you’re taking your baby in a car. If not, skip it. We tried both a carrier-style one and a convertible one, and preferred the convertible. The carrier one was just too bulky and heavy for me to actually carry, so unless I was just attaching it straight to the stroller or putting it in a shopping cart, it wasn’t really worth it. I much preferred to risk waking the baby and wearing him instead. While we bought it later, I wish we had bought our Chicco NextFit Zip from the beginning. I love that car seat – you can unzip and wash the cover, and it’s a breeze to switch vehicles. It’s really a personal preference, though.
Something to be Carried In
If you’re getting a carrier-style car seat, you can use it here. We had one, but because I hated it so much, I just wore him or put him in a stroller. So your options are car seat, wrap/baby carrier, or stroller. Whatever you decide to use for carrying, make the investment into something good and sturdy, instead of just buying the cheapest out there. People thought I was crazy for wanting to spend $350 on a Baby Jogger stroller, but it is (4 years later) still my most worthwhile purchase. Our Ergobaby 360 carrier is a similar (albeit slightly cheaper) story.
Again, this is kind of a “duh” category. While babies being naked is totally cool with me, the baby might be a little cold, depending on the weather and temperature of your home. That said, don’t bother with getting fancy, expensive baby clothes. They’re just going to get pooped in, I promise. Hand-me-downs and secondhand shops are a great source, since babies grow so fast and the clothes aren’t worn for very long. It’s the same thing with swaddles (the only one we could actually get our baby to not hate was SwaddleUP) and sleepers. Okay, a cute outfit or two isn’t going to hurt.