When I was pregnant with Warrior Girl, I was quickly overwhelmed by all the “everything you need for a newborn” lists on the internet. I found they tended to do one of two things: either claim literally all the baby needs is 3 pairs of weather-appropriate clothing, your boobs, and diapers (hello, what about a car seat?); or list thousands of dollars of impractical and unnecessary stuff.
I made this list for a pregnant friend when Warrior Girl was about a year old to help her avoid what I went through when pregnant with my daughter. This list is tailored towards parents who want to be frugal in their purchases and/or who just want to avoid buying unnecessary stuff. To make this list, I literally took inventory of everything I had for Warrior Girl and am including everything I found necessary and worth buying/having. I have included frugal alternatives to things the Baby Industrial Complex says you need and discussed ways to get by without a number of “essentials.” All links are for either the exact product I have, or something very similar.
Now… announcement time! While I am interested in posting this list just to help other people who are as confused and overwhelmed as I was, newborns are also on my mind right now…
Because I am pregnant!
Yes, I am nearly 26 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. J and I are so excited to have two little wild warrior girls to love and raise.
So without further ado, here is my Minimalist/Frugal List of Literally Everything You Need for a Newborn (and a lot of things you can do without):
Pack ‘n Play/Somewhere for Baby to Sleep Some co-sleeping families don’t even bother getting any kind of crib. The Pack n Play is nice because it’s small, compact, cheap, and very safe. Real cribs are obviously cuter, but more expensive, bigger, and not portable. Also, the AAP advises against crib bumpers or soft bedding, without which cribs are not near as cute. At 2 years old, Warrior Girl still sleeps in this and she is on the tall side.
Muslin Swaddle Blankets at least 46×46 inches in size. Do not bother with rectangular swaddlers or any smaller than this because they are much harder to use and much easier for baby to wriggle out of.
Other Blankets – I recommend 1 or more big ones for baby to lay/play on the floor and 1 or more soft and warm blankets to wrap around baby in the car seat or anytime you go out in cooler weather. Since we never had a baby swing or Rock n Play or anything, Warrior Girl was always either in our arms, on a blanket on the floor for playtime, or asleep in her pack n play.
White Noise Machine – White noise mimics the sounds in the womb and is magical at soothing babies. You could use an app on your phone instead, which is cheaper, but you might need your phone and want to leave white noise on while baby sleeps in the crib.
- Minimalist/Frugal Alternative: Do the good old fashioned, “Shhh, shhhhh.”
Stuff for Baby Bums:
1 large box of newborn disposable diapers – even though I cloth diaper, I prefer to use disposables at first because it takes a while before they fit into one-size cloth diapers, which is what I use.
Changing Pad – I consider the pad essential, but a table unnecessary. I just put the pad on the bed or on the floor or whatever, then leave it under the bed or leaning against the wall when not in use. You could do without this, but newborn poop is seriously messy, and it’s great to be able to wipe up a pad. Now that Warrior Girl is 2, I finally acquired a dresser with a space to put her changing pad on top…thrift store find!
- Minimalist/Frugal Alternative: Skip it and use a towel on the floor. Be prepared for a lot of laundry.
Diaper Bag – I thought I wouldn’t need/want, but it’s actually very handy. If you are partnered, get colors your partner likes too. You don’t want to be stuck carrying the bag on all family outings! I have an over-the-shoulder bag, but if I were to do it again, I would get a backpack like the one linked to here because that bag can get HEAVY.
- Minimalist/Frugal Alternative: Use any backpack you have hanging around. Or even any tote or canvas bag for that matter.
Changing pad for on the go- Most diaper bags come with one, so you don’t need to purchase one separately unless you aren’t getting a diaper bag. These are really convenient because they are wipeable and you can avoid having your baby poop on someone’s floor. You can also lay it on the changing table in public restrooms because those things are usually kind of gross.
- Minimalist/Frugal alternative: lay them on top of a blanket you already have, and bring a plastic bag or a wet bag to put it in if they poop on it.
Diaper Balm – This one <—- clears up Warrior Girl’s diaper rash overnight. For real.
Nursing stuff (if you are nursing):
Breast Pump – Your insurance should cover this. Contact them and ask. I have the Medela Pump in Style which is really nice, and the one linked to above is similar. I recommend getting a breast pump prior to having the baby even if you won’t be working while your baby is young because 1) If baby has trouble latching or breastfeeding in the early days, a pump can help draw out your nipples or soften engorged breasts (which are hard to latch to), 2) You may find it necessary to do some expressed milk bottle feedings as we did, due to Warrior Girl not gaining weight as a newborn, and 3) You might want to go somewhere without the baby for more than an hour or two at a time. Even if you are only leaving for an hour, it’s helpful to be able to leave some expressed milk just in case so that said newborn is not screaming for that entire hour, as Warrior Girl did when I tried to go to Target without her when she was 2 weeks old.
A bag to carry pump in – I got mine for free at hospital. You will probably only need this if you are working or plan to be pumping away from home. You could also use any random bag you have hanging around, preferably one with a zipper.
Breast Milk Storage Bags – You can pump directly into these bags and then freeze or refrigerate them. The one issue with pumping into storage bags is the difficulty of accurately determining the number of ounces pumped. There are ounce markers on the side but I found them to be basically worthless. For example, the bag would appear to contain 5 ounces, but when poured into a bottle, it would only be 3 ounces. That being said, I found storage bags to be necessary as I pumped more than Warrior Girl was actually eating in a day.
A Bottle – I never needed to buy one because we got one at the hospital as a free gift. Yes, we only needed one. Then again, I was usually only gone at class for 4 hours at a time when Warrior Girl was very young. If I had been working full-time, we would have needed 2. We used the bottle linked to above and loved it. Newborn/slow flow nipples make it more like breastfeeding for baby.
Nipple Balm – Yes. Balm. For your nipples. You will thank me later.
Nursing Pads – For leaking boobs! These are worth it to have for the early days. Some woman don’t leak. I envy them.
- Minimalist/Frugal alternative:Sew your own.
Nursing Bras – 0% sexy, 100% worth it. Don’t buy these until after baby is born and milk comes in because your boobs will change sizes. You will need to try these on before buying, so I’m not including a link. Every now and then, I give in and shop at Wal-Mart, and I snagged a couple nursing bras on the cheap there. Avoid underwires because they can cause plugged ducts and mastitis, especially in the first few months. Especially if you are me.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative: Don’t buy any. Admittedly, these are not totally necessary, but it is really nice to be able to whip out a boob single-handedly, which is pretty much the point of nursing bras.
Burp Cloths – I use prefold cloth diapers for this. I have around 12, which is a lot, but many babies are heavy spitters in the early days, and I would go through 2/day. They double as cleaning rags.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative: Sew your own out of absorbent fabric. These are already cheap though.
Nursing Cover– This depends on your comfort nursing in public. For me, my comfort level with nursing uncovered depended on where I was and who I was around. I used this cover, which is really nice because you can easily look down and see baby. Once Sage got older, it became possible to nurse in public uncovered without showing as much. At that point, I stopped using it. We were just not skilled at breastfeeding for a good long time.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative: Just toss a blanket over one shoulder. Or go uncovered. And/or: see below.
Loose Fitting T-Shirts – It might seem silly, but it is seriously so much easier to pull up a loose fitting shirt many times a day than a tight one. For me, wearing a loose fitting shirt allowed me to nurse without a cover while staying…covered. You probably already have some from the past 9 months of becoming larger in the belly region.
Baby carrier and/or stroller. You need a way to carry baby and go places. Because obviously. We didn’t plan to get a stroller, but ended up getting one because they provide better shade than just wearing baby. We also ended up getting two different types of carriers: a hard carrier and a soft carrier.
Hard carriers are ideal for longer walks, hiking, and they work for wearing around the house as well. The Ergo 360 is an awesome hard carrier. It has 4 carrying positions and a sunshade when baby is facing inward on the chest. We used this while walking and hiking with Warrior Girl for a long time, until we eventually upgraded to a baby-carrier-hiking-backpack.
It is nice to have a soft carrier such as the Moby Wrap. Soft carriers are more comfortable for hanging out around the house or light walking, while I prefer something more sturdy like the Ergo 360 for hiking and activities that involve more jostling.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative: Skip the store bought carriers altogether and just make this no-sew homemade Moby wrap. You can then use a muslin swaddle blanket as a sun cover. I made 3 and gave 2 away as gifts.
A stroller is not essential, but very convenient. An umbrella stroller will do if you want to save money. Our stroller is the Graco Aire3, which rides very smoothly. Here is the travel system, which includes a connecting car seat. We only bought the stroller, because we already had a car seat.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative: Skip the stroller and just stick with a carrier. Or just get a cheap umbrella stroller.
Car Seat – We got ours second hand, which many people don’t know is totally legit, as long as it’s not expired (will say on a little sticker on the bottom/side) or cracked and has never been in an accident. BUT you need to know its history, so stick to people you know or get it new. If you get a new car seat, you may want a compatible stroller travel system, but we didn’t this and it’s not essential. We only have one car seat and one base, and we switch it back and forth between our two cars as needed. The one linked to above converts from an infant to toddler car seat.
Bathtub – Having a little plastic tub is nice because they’re so small and slippery that bathing can be a little scary at first!
- Minimalist/frugal alternative #1: A friend of mine just fills the tub with shallow water and lays her baby on his back in the tub. She says when the water covers his ears (but obviously not his face), he finds it very soothing because it is like being in the womb. She says it hasn’t caused ear infections for them, and Warrior Girl’s pediatrician confirmed it should not cause ear infections. I didn’t learn that trick until Warrior Girl was a toddler, but I plan to try it with the next baby. This would obviously eliminate the need for a baby tub.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative #2: Bathe baby in the sink (I’ve found this to be difficult) or carefully bathe with baby (much better, plus cozy).
2 towels – is plenty.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative: You can use towels you already have, just keep in mind baby might poop on them.
4 washcloths – Again, you can use washcloths you already have.
Shampoo/ body wash – We love this one. It has never caused tears for Warrior Girl.
Between 1 and 5 newborn sized outfits/nightgowns. – unless you anticipate birthing a 9-10 lb baby. Then, God be with you and you can skip the newborn clothes.
Figure you might need to change baby’s clothes twice/day and twice/night, if they’re having tons of blowouts and spitting up excessively. So if you do laundry once/week, 14 outfits and 7-10 pairs of pajamas (in size 0-3 months) will be plenty. (This is being very generous for the less-than-frequent-launderer. You could do with less and do more laundry).
- I am all for the sleeper gowns, because there are no snaps to deal with in the night. Thrift stores have a lot to offer in this department. Ross also has cute, very cheap baby clothes.
- Once your baby gets older (ie. over 6 months), they won’t spit up or blowout as much and will require fewer clothes in each size.
- It’s great to get clothes in different sizes, just make sure that any bigger sizes are appropriate to the season it will be when baby is that age!
*A note about baby clothes sizes: Size 3 month means 0-3, while size 6 month means size 3-6 month. Obviously, it depends on your baby’s size, which is why I recommend looking at your own birth weight and partner’s birth weight to get a guesstimate.
Beanies are essential but we got all we needed for the first few months from the hospital! Here is the kind they gave us, which we really liked. Just soft, stretchy knit ones that baby can sleep in comfortably.
If it’s a girl, I really think it’s worth it to get some little headbands (gendering starts early, eh!) so you don’t have to clarify all the time that she is a girl. It also helps if you plan to have her wear things on her head in the future so she can get used to it. This is obviously not essential in the least. Just cute.
Kid-Sized Hangers – only if you plan to hang up any of the baby clothes.
Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water – For gas, tummy aches, teething, hiccups, etc.
Rectal Thermometer – The most accurate way to take baby’s temp, doesn’t bother them at all when they’re little. When they get older though, it does. At that point, I switched to an ear/head scanner thermometer.
Humidifier– Useful for baby colds and you can leave it on all night long.
- Minimalist/frugal alternative: Make a steam room with the shower and let them sit in there, or take them into the shower with you. This can really clean out their sinuses. Downside: this only lasts so long. I think sooner or later, it’s worth it to get a humidifier.
Tylenol – You will probably want to have a fever-reducer on hand eventually, but you are not supposed to use Tylenol until Baby is 3 months old and you can’t use Ibuprofen until they are 6 months old.
Some Type of Nasal Aspirator – We really like this one.
Some easy way to rock the baby – there are different options for this depending on how much space you have and how much you want to spend.
Option 1: A rocking chair OR an exercise ball – Not essential, but very nice. Just something to make it easy to rock or jiggle baby for soothing. We snagged a rocking chair from the thrift store. Done.
Option 2: A swing/Rock N Play – We didn’t buy one of these because they are expensive and take up a lot of space. We didn’t find it at all necessary, as Warrior Girl was fine being held, worn, rocked, or laid on the floor. I have heard from other moms that they are amazing though.
- Option 3: Minimalist/frugal alternative: Sit and bounce on the edge of the bed while holding baby. Bonus: You get a workout!
Baby Monitor – Whether or not you need a baby monitor depends on the size of your house. Our apartment was small enough that we didn’t buy one until Warrior Girl was around 18 months old! We just left our bedroom doors open overnight and I could easily hear her.
Stuff You Can Get By Without:
- Nursery furniture. Cute but unnecessary. We bought one of those rubbermaid set of three plastic drawers, I gave up 2 drawers in my dresser, and we hung the rest of her stuff in her closet. The end.
- Toys for newborns – overstimulating. Once they get to be around 6 months they might like a couple, but babies tend to show more interest in household items anyway.
- Wipes Warmer. What?
- Mobile – Overstimulates young babies when you want them to sleep.
- Baby Swings/Rock n Plays
- Multiple car seats/bases
- Anything not on this list.
Whew! If you made it this far, all I can say is congratulations. There you have it: literally everything you need for a newborn.
So tell me, anything you consider essential I didn’t list? Is there anything on my list that you happily did without? Share your minimalist/frugal secrets!