Who knew bringing home a tiny human required so much STUFF? In the nine months I had leading up to arrival of my son, Elijah, I mostly spent time researching what I did and did not need, to make our lives a little bit easier. With the things I decided that we did need, I tried to find the most cost-effective way to obtain them.
Obviously, babies will have different preferences for what they like, but oftentimes, we don’t know these preferences until weeks after they have arrived. These are the items that were must-haves for me and little Eli, and this list can be a guide and starting point for soon-to-be mothers who are a little overwhelmed by it all.
Where to Register
It seems like every single store that sells baby items wants you to create a baby registry with them. Here are the ones that I found to be the most useful and have the most perks.
- Amazon – After creating a registry at Amazon, add something on the list that you were going to buy anyway that is at least $10. Purchase the item and check off the rest of the boxes on the Amazon baby checklist, and you will be eligible to receive a free Baby Registry Welcome Box, worth $35. You do have to have Amazon Prime to eligible for the box. Click here for a free trial! Another great perk to join is Amazon Family. You can save up to 20% on qualifying items, such as diapers, formula, wipes, and more!
BONUS: Anything left on the registry that you did not receive, you can purchase for 10% off (15% for Prime members)!
- Target – After creating a baby registry with Target, you can pick up a free welcome bag at any Target stores, if they have them in stock. I received: MAM bottle, Nuk pacifier, Pampers diaper clutch & 2 newborn diapers, and samples for nipple cream and Dapple dish soap.
BONUS: Anything left on the registry that you did not receive, you can purchase for 15% off!
- Babylist – I ended up creating and sharing my registry at Babylist with friends and family because I can easily add items from wherever I want. I really like the layout and design, and the customer service is easy to work with.
BONUS: Anything left on the registry that you did not receive, you can purchase for 10% off!
There are a few options for where to look for secondhand baby items. I mostly used Facebook Marketplace to find items that were being sold locally. Thrift stores, Goodwill, and baby consignment shops are also great places to look for gently used items.
- Diaper Pail – Some people claim that a diaper pail is a waste of money because the smells of poop cannot be contained. Elijah hasn’t really explored the world of solids yet, but so far, his formula and breastmilk diapers have been contained fairly well in our Diaper Champ (except when we are changing it out, but that is to be expected). The other plus is that we can use regular trash bags, which is a huge money saver. Other popular diaper pail brands include Diaper Genie, Munchkin, Dekor, and Ubbi. Ubbi is another one that doesn’t require special refill bags.
- Swing – For a fussy, colicky baby, a swing is a lifesaver. Our swing put our baby to sleep when nothing else would work. We bought a discontinued Graco model secondhand, and it has definitely served its purpose well. I would recommend getting one that will plug into the wall if you don’t anticipate moving it around often.
- Bouncer – These are very easy to find used. There are lots of different brands to choose from, and you shouldn’t have to pay more than $10 for one. There are also swing/bouncer combinations as a space-saving option.
- High Chair – Once your little one is able to try some solids (4-6 months), a high chair is a very handy to have. If your family frequently eats in the dining room, a booster seat style high chair would work well; it’s also more portable. I found a Graco Duodiner high chair in great condition for $10, and it has been the perfect place for Elijah to try out solids.
- Changing Table – Although some people end up changing their babies on beds or couches, I always liked using the changing table because all of the materials I needed were within reach and easy to access.
- Swaddles – I loved using the Swaddleme pods and velcro swaddles for the first three months. They keep the baby’s arms contained so the startle reflex doesn’t wake them up multiple times a night.
- Pack n Play – Although Eli didn’t spend a lot of time in his Pack n Play, it served as a baby station for the downstairs. It was a place to set him down when I needed my hands, and the changing station for the downstairs was a lifesaver. It’s also a must-have for baby sleep when traveling.
- Exersaucer – This won’t come in handy until your baby gains complete head control (~4 months), but it can entertain your baby for quite awhile. They are pretty expensive when purchased brand new but can be found secondhand fairly easily. Because they tend to take up a lot of space, try to find one that can be collapsed and/or converted when they get older, like the Evenflo Exersaucer Triple Fun.
- Rock n Play – Moms swear by the Rock n Play when newborns have a hard time going to sleep. Although it is not technically sleep safe, the inclined hammock-like sleep surface is liked by a lot of babies and can be a lifesaver for extreme cases of reflux. Paying a little more for the auto-rock option is worth the money, in my opinion.
- Fisher Price Sit Me Up Chair – Eli started favoring sleeping on one side from the first day we brought him home. This resulted in a flat spot on one side of his head. At such a young age, it’s difficult to keep the babies off their heads all the time, since tummy time can be so tiring and uncomfortable. This chair keeps the baby upright in a natural position, without the need for complete head control. Having this seat was crucial in helping his head grow back into a nice round shape.
- Nursing Pillow – I have the Leachco Cuddle-U pillow, and it created a soft surface for me to rest my arms and the baby, when I held him for a nap or when feeding him. It’s also a great baby lounger and works as a prop up pillow for tummy time!
Big Ticket Items
These are the items that I knew I wanted but were priced on the higher end. When close family and friends ask what they should get you or if you need ideas for Christmas/birthday gifts, choose from this list.
- Crib – Babies get transitioned to their rooms and their cribs at different ages. I wasn’t sure when I would be willing to graduate Eli to his own room, but I ended up doing it sooner than anticipated (4 months). This has done wonders for my sleep at night, and Eli has been sleeping in his crib very well. If you don’t have a nursery or have limited space, a mini-crib may be more a more suitable purchase.
- Baby Monitor – This is must-have if you have a fairly large house or if you plan on sleep training. We have the Summer Infant Dual View baby monitor, and it has been working well so far.
- Glider – A glider is not a must-have and may not be feasible, depending on the size of the nursery, but I really enjoy using it for nighttime feedings and story time.
- Travel System – It’s a good idea to invest in a quality travel system because it will cause a lot of headache if you don’t like the one you have. I opted for a budget-friendly one by BabyTrend, but if I could go back, I most likely would pay more for Chicco or Britax. The three-wheeled jogger-style stroller are much easier to maneuver than the four-wheeled style. Make sure to add an extra base to the registry if you anticipate multiple people or cars driving the little one around.
- Convertible Car Seat – This is the car seat that will grow with your baby. These typically have a weight range of 5-40 lbs and can be used rear or front facing. The only downside is that it is not portable and must stay in the car, so it’s not as convenient for infants. We have a Graco convertible car seat and we started using it before his first birthday.
- Dockatot – I debated for a long time before finally pulling the trigger on this expensive baby bed. Some people claim that it is a miracle product and will get your baby to sleep through the night. I can guarantee that does not happen with all babies (it didn’t with mine). But this is a great flat sleeping surface for babies that don’t like sleeping in a bassinet or crib. It’s also extremely lightweight and portable for sleepovers at Grandma’s. The deluxe size claims to fit babies 0-9 months, so you will get a lot of use out of it.
- Breast Pump – If you have health insurance, you should be covered for a free breast pump. I got mine through Aeroflow. They contacted my insurance company for me and got the required prescription from my OBGYN, then sent me an email listing all of my options – it was so easy! The two most popular breast pumps are the Spectra and the Medela.
- Diapers/Wipes – Have at least one pack of newborn diapers on hand, and you can never have too many wipes. We have had great success with Pampers and haven’t really tried other brands. I also prefer the sensitive/fragrance-free wipes to minimize irritation.
- Burp Cloths – Babies spit up a lot. Or they drool. Or they leak milk when eating. I didn’t like using blankets as burp cloths because I felt like I had to wash them after doing that. I always have to have designated burp cloths within reach. My favorites are Carter’s terry cloth burp cloths. They are extremely soft and absorbent and in a very handy shape. I also purchased Gerber’s prefold gauze diapers, which work great as well.
- Blankets – Blankets can be used to keep the baby warm, as a swaddle, as a burp cloth, or as a changing surface. They typically come in flannel or muslin varieties. I like using the muslin blankets more because they are lightweight, breathable, and more stretchy.
- Bottles – Bottle preference is very specific to the baby. We tried Dr. Brown’s Wide, MAM, and Avent. My favorite to use are the MAM bottles. The nipple is slightly flattened to fit into the baby’s mouth to form a tight latch with minimal leakage. The holes on the bottom of the bottle allow the bottle to vent perfectly, with no nipple collapse. The nipple was constantly collapsing with Avent bottles. The smaller size bottles hold 2 ounces more than most other small sized bottles. And the gradual angle of the shape of the bottle allows all of the milk to travel to the nipple easily. I didn’t like how the milk would get trapped in the Avent bottles. Other popular brands that we didn’t try include Comotomo, Tommee Tippee, Playtex, and Lansinoh.
- Pacifier – There are a lot of differing opinions about the use of pacifiers, but studies have shown that using one at night can reduce the risk of SIDS up to 6 months. We tried the Wubbanub pacifiers, but Eli was not a big fan of the flat soother style nipple. He really enjoyed using the MAM brand pacifiers, and the glow in the dark ones are extremely helpful when searching for a pacifier at night.
- Nose Cleaner – Baby nose holes are teeny tiny, and the bulb syringe is not very effective at removing snot. The Nosefrida looks and sounds scary, like the baby’s brains are getting sucked out, but it works well. The oogiebear ear & nose cleaner is the perfect tool for cleaning out external ear wax and dried boogers from little noses. The product also claims, “Friendly bear design won’t scare baby.”
- Diaper Cream – All babies will need diaper cream to protect their bottoms. I like to slather it on before bedtime as a preventative measure, in case he poops at night. I like Boudreaux’s Butt Paste brand, and I’ve also heard great things about Desitin.
- Babybum Brush – Diaper cream is very waterproof and will adhere to your hands. It can also be hard to apply far enough between the cheeks to where irritation is present. This brush is very helpful in keeping my hands clean and reaching easily between the butt cheeks. The cream comes off the brush easily with a wipe.
- Formula Pitcher – If you plan on exclusively formula feeding or supplementing with formula, the Dr. Brown’s formula pitcher is a must-have. Instead of preparing bottle after bottle throughout the day, up to 40 oz of formula can be prepared at once and stored in the fridge. The mixer in the pitcher prevents clumps and makes formula preparation a breeze. I also use warm water for formula preparation, which completely eliminates clumps every time.
- Mini Fridge – We have a two story house, and we spend the majority of the time on the second floor. The mini fridge was the perfect place to store my pump parts (between washes), expressed breast milk, and prepared formula. It saved me so much time and energy that I did not have.
- Baby Bathtub – The bathtub we use is the Skip Hop MOBY Bathtub with Sling. It’s easy to fill and clean and supports the baby’s neck and body very well during baths. It’s also shaped like a cute whale. The matching Skip Hop Waterfall Rinser also comes in handy for keeping water out of the baby’s eyes when rinsing out shampoo.
- Drying Rack – If you use bottles, you will want to have a dedicated bottle drying area. Different bottles brands and sizes will fit better on different types of racks. I like the Boon Grass because all bottles and parts will be able to fit. I also have the Munchkin drying rack, which is great for nipples and tall bottles.