My favorite things you actually need when you have a baby

Hi, friends! I hope your week has been going great! So today’s favorites edition is going to be a little bit different, and I’m going to share some insight into baby gear — a reader request! This one is tailored toward mommas who are expecting or anyone who needs to buy a gift for a baby shower, for a friend or a family member, and we’re going to call it the “things you actually need when you have a baby” list.

And let me start this by saying: If you’re not currently pregnant and are wishing that you were, I hope you keep the faith and know that what’s meant to be will be for you. Pray for patience. And be kind to yourself. I was in your shoes for a very long time too, and I’m sending you lots of love. 

Now, moving on to the topic at hand …

When you’re expecting a new baby, there are about 10,000 things that you could buy to prepare. There are a lot of stores and websites designed to make you think that every item is essential. You have to have it or you will be a bad parent. But, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need everything that’s out there. And I’m also here to tell you that everyone has their own opinion on what you need, and now that I’ve gotten through the first four months of having a little one, I have come to my own conclusions. (By the way, we registered at BuyBuyBaby and Pottery Barn, but only needed the stuff from BuyBuyBaby, and you can use Bed Beth & Beyond coupons there, which is super helpful.)

My favorite things you actually need when you have a baby

I didn’t want to get everything under the sun, because our place was pretty small at the time, and so I registered for basically the bare minimum, and ended up getting more than we needed. So here are the things I really used and needed, and I’m linking out to my favorite brands too.

And, by the way, this is for the first three months or so of a baby’s life, because as they get older, what you need may change slightly.

My favorite things you actually need when you have a baby by A Lady Goes West

Rock ‘n PlayThis is perhaps the most important thing for me. We had one of these and didn’t initially pull it out when we brought Brady home. We should have. Instead of trying to get Brady to sleep in the HALO Bassinet, we should have put him right into the deluxe Rock ‘n Play at night. Doctors won’t always say this is for sleeping, but ours thought it was totally fine for the first three months or so. Brady loved the Rock ‘n Play, and it was a great place for him to sleep and lay safely and snuggly. And the vibrations, rocking and music were great too. Now, people will say that if you start with the cozy Rock ‘n Play, you’ll have a harder time getting them to sleep flat in their crib. Maybe so, but I’d still go with it, because he loved it. We ended up selling our HALO Bassinet just a few weeks ago, because we weren’t using it anymore. Truthfully, we could have gone straight from the Rock ‘n Play to the crib and saved on the bassinet. The Rock ‘n Play is also light enough to move throughout the house, if you need baby safely rocking in the living areas during the day too.

*Edited to add, sadly this item was recalled in mid 2019, so please be careful, and check the official website.

Boppy pillow — Even if you aren’t planning to breastfeed, you can still use the Boppy pillow for propping your baby up when you feed him or her bottles. You can also let your little one lean on the Boppy when supervised with you on the bed, floor, couch, etc.. I love my Boppy and bring it everywhere. The cover comes off and is washable, and I plan to keep using it for quite a while. It is great for tummy time too. By the way, you can get custom covers for your Boppy on Etsy here to match your nursery decor.

Sleepsack swaddles — When you’re in the hospital, they will show you how to swaddle your little one with his or her arms in tightly by his or her sides with blankets, which is how new babies need to sleep to keep them from flailing their arms and waking up. When we first came home, we did this same thing with the blankets at night (in the middle of the night, over and over and over), until I realized that we could be using much easier zip-up swaddle suits instead. We are still using the HALO cotton Sleepsacks for Brady and will transition him to sleeping with hims arms out soon. Get at least two of these, because baby will likely spit up all over it each night and you don’t want to have to do laundry every day.

Diapers and wipes — I should have signed up for The Honest Company delivery right off the bat, because you can get diapers for a slight discount by joining the membership program (<<–my affiliate link!), and they send you a big bundle along with wipes every few weeks automatically. We bought a bunch of Babyganics diapers and wipes and ended up switching to The Honest Company, and they are superior for sure. Babyganics diapers are a bit more flimsy and had more of a leakage issue. Now here’s where my experience is different from many — Brady was in newborn diapers for the first five weeks or so, which is a long time, and we had to keep going out to get more newborn diapers, which was stressful — so I wish we had just bought a ton before he was born to have on hand. Most people told me not to get too many newborn diapers, but we needed them. I’d say get a few bags of newborn and size 1, and wait to get any other sizes until you see how fast your baby is growing. And get a lot of wipes! You’ll use them for everything. And you’ll also want travel-size wipes for the diaper bag.

EDITED TO ADD: Several months into our diaper delivery with the Honest Company, I heard about Abby & Finn, another diaper company that makes non-toxic chemical-free diapers and wipes for MUCH cheaper. Although they don’t have as many cute patterns, the diapers are great. We’ve been using Abby & Finn for a little under a year and loving it — so it’s my preference and recommendation to other parents now.

Stain remover and detergent — Baby stains get everywhere. Have a couple of spray bottles on the ready! This is the only kind we’ve tried, and it works pretty good. You also want some special detergent to wash their things alone. Why? I don’t know, but we do it that way. I’ll be buying The Honest Company kind (which you can get delivered with your diapers and wipes from the membership too) when we run out of all the Babyganics bottles we have.

Muslin blankets — We have SO many blankets and go through a ton a day. When I look at our stack of say 15 muslin blankets, I initially thought it was excessive, but it’s really not. I think 10 is a safe number and you definitely don’t want less than five. We lay these blankets on the bed and couch to catch spit-up, we also use these blankets on top of the Boppy when I feed Brady, to keep him covered in the car seat and to cover his activity mat too. These are my favorite brand for sure. You can also use these as swaddles at night if you like to do the swaddling yourself without a zipper suit.

Burp cloths and/or bibs — Always on the ready. Sometimes we use them as a bib. Just get at least five or so, so you don’t have to do laundry every day. Oh and these are the greatest bibs, which I hadn’t registered for but got as a gift, and you’ll want those too.

Onesie and zipper jammies — Zipper jammies or little onesies are superior for the evening. While the full-button ones are cute, they take more time and attention in the middle of the night, and you don’t want that. While it’s great to have a bunch of cute outfits for baby (especially the going-home-from-the-hospital outfit), your baby will live in jammies for the first few weeks and months, unless you’re taking his or her picture. Load up on jammies. Here are my favorite basics

Baby nail file and clippers — Babies nails grow so quickly, and they will scratch themselves if you don’t keep their nails trimmed or put their hands in little mittens. The mittens always fell off of Brady’s tiny hands, so instead, we make sure to keep Brady’s nails trimmed with this baby file and these clippers. This is always Dave’s job, by the way, and Brady doesn’t mind it at all. We call it “going to the nail salon with Daddy.”

Nursing pads — While this list is supposed to be for babies and not mommas, I couldn’t leave this off the list. You will need a lot of things as a mom, and you can check out more in the post about my postpartum recovery, but whatever you do, get a ton of nursing pads to stop leakage. I buy these in bulk and still need them to this day because I’m still nursing. As a note, you’ll want to get the extra soft version for your first batch, then you can switch to the regular version.

Car seat/stroller — You can’t take your baby home from the hospital without a properly installed infant car seat, so it’s pretty important. And you also want a stroller so you can get out and take walks with your baby as soon as you feel ready. We are in love with our infant seat and stroller combo. Love it! While some people have fancier versions, I can close up our stroller with one hand and lift it into my trunk, which is a very convenient thing. (You’ll also want a stroller bag to carry things and the converters to make sure the seat attaches to the stroller.)

Baby carrier — During the first few weeks of being home alone with Brady, I couldn’t get anything done if I didn’t have him with me in his baby carrier. This one is my favorite for smaller babies, and it’s easy to get into on your own. He loves it to this day. I also have this one for longer walks, but I need some help getting into it, and you also need the infant insert too. Both are good, and you’ll only really need one carrier to get started the first few months.

Diaper pale — The reason I think everyone should have a diaper pale is because you just don’t need to worry about emptying a regular garbage can all the time and diaper pales hold a lot of diapers. We went with this one and love it. You add your own garbage bag too, so you don’t have to buy special bags. 

Breast pump — Depending on your breastfeeding journey, you may or may not have the need to pump. if you will be pumping a lot, you may need to rent a hospital-grade pump, but if you will only pump here and there, one of the home versions should work. I got this one, without the backpack, and my insurance covered it. Just call your insurance and see if they will too. I haven’t had to take it to work with me (because I work from my couch, as you know), but it’s small and portable and would be easy to transport if I needed to.

Bottles and drying rack — We didn’t actually introduce a bottle to Brady until shortly after six weeks (here’s his favorite), but we did need the drying rack right away, because we fed him tiny bits of breastmilk from a syringe the first few days of his life. Wow, it’s so weird to think back on those times! Nonetheless, there are a lot of parts to a breast pump and to bottles, so it’s great to have a place to let them air out. You can also get the special baby bottle dish soap, which we use, and you may not really need the special soap, but I like to have it.

Changing pad and changing pad liners — This is something that I didn’t know we needed a lot of, but you need to cover the changing pad, because you will likely have some accidents on there. We bought these changing pad covers/liners and started out with three and quickly realized we needed six, in order to not have to do laundry every day. Oh the fun of a new little babe.

Glider chair — This is not a must have, but this is something we truly enjoyed having, because you have to do a lot of rocking of the babe. We also have the moving ottoman. It’s an investment, but I feel like it’s already been put to use with many hours of rocking and gliding. Even if you get an old-school rocking chair, you need something to make it easy for you to soothe the little babe in the middle of the night or any time during the day and still be comfortable. And yes, there have been some snoozes in that thing.

A few other items we started using a few weeks in, but we didn’t need right away …

  • An activity mat for letting baby hang out on the floor in the family room. Brady still loves this!
  • A sound machine/night-light for sleeping, which we can control from an app on our phones.
  • A monitor to watch baby, once he/she sleeps alone.
  • Wubbanub, his very favorite pacifier he started using at six weeks. We literally do not leave home without it.
  • Baby books to read to your little one to create a night-time routine. This is our favorite book. And we read a book each night, going through a rotation of about seven or eight.
  • A bathtub — oh how we love bath time over here. We have this one and love it, but you don’t bathe your baby for almost a month or so after they are born, believe it or not. You just wash them with a wet cloth. But boy it’s so cute when you finally get to start bathing your little at home. Scrub-a-dub-dub.

Also, we were lucky that Brady didn’t get sick or have any diaper rash, so we didn’t need a thermometer or diaper rash cream or a first-aid kit, but I know some people do need those things fairly soon (we had them, just never used them, so it may be safe to stock up). We did, however, give him vitamin D drops and these probiotics early on, per his doctor’s request, and he no longer needs the probiotics, but is still taking the Vitamin D, which most breastfed babies need until they eat regular food.

By the way, even though your baby likely won’t be in his or her nursery very much when he or she is young, I still think it’s great to get it mostly set up, so you don’t have to worry about doing it once you have your baby with you in the world. We always changed Brady’s diapers and got him dressed in his nursery, and he finally moved into his nursery at night once we were in our new house as of almost three weeks ago. Now he spends a lot more time in there. And I spend a lot of time in the glider. Like a lot … 

Ashley and Brady in nursery by A Lady Goes West

Okay, friends! That should cover it for my favorite things you actually need when you have a new baby! Maybe you don’t need this list right now, but if you have a friend who’s expecting, share the love. Thanks for reading, peeps! I hope you have a wonderful day! 🙂

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Questions of the day

Parents: What’s something you couldn’t live without the first few months of having a new baby?

What’s your favorite type of gift to buy someone for a baby shower?

What’s your favorite childhood book?

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    1. You’re welcome, Jen! I did SO much research trying to get the right amount of stuff, and all of my friends had products they liked, so it was hard to get concrete advice. Overall, you’ll find what works for you, but don’t get TOO much. We actually left a lot of stuff in boxes and did some returning after Brady arrived!!

  1. You have a great list there. I have three kids and the one thing all of them used was a swing. That thing was great. I used it when i needed to get breakfast, lunch or dinner made. My babies always loved it. When they were older my kids always loved their bouncer – the kind that has a base on it – not the kind that goes on the door. Once they get a little older they start getting bored and it’s great to have the option to move them in a circuit. I’d put them in the swing during breakfast time and then put them in the bouncer while I finished getting ready, then I’d put them on the floor for tummy time when I’d do laundry. And amen to the zip pajamas – so much easier than snaps during middle of the night changes. Their favorite book were goodnight moon and chicka chicka boom Boom.

    1. Hi Deanna, The swing is something we don’t have and have been fine without, but I know some people swear by it! We are going to need a bouncer where Brady can “stand” very soon I think — he LOVES to be up and looking around for sure. And how funny that we are all just looking for ways to keep them entertained so we can DO STUFF hahahaha! 🙂 Oh and we don’t have Chicka Chicka Boom — I guess I need to get it! Goodnight Moon is a standard here, but it’s so short, I like books slightly longer hehehe

  2. I used the rock and play for my first born, and decided to try the HALO bassinet with my second baby and I’m SO glad that I did! My daughter loved it and slept so well in it because she was a side sleeper. She stayed in it until almost 5 months. I put the snuggle me organic lounger in it for the first few months which made a huge difference for a newborn. It was so cozy for her and easy for me having just had a c-section. I will say that they aren’t intended to go together, but fit perfectly, and worked well for us.

    Love all your baby tips! Have fun with your little one!!

    1. Hi Lisa! I’m so glad you liked the HALO Bassinet! We tried the infant insert, but it just wasn’t quite right for Brady. But I do know that c-section recovery calls for something as convenient as the HALO with the swivel portion. I think Brady will be a side sleeper too! Thanks for saying hi, lady! 🙂

  3. We didn’t have a baby carrier with our first baby but we do have one now and it makes me wonder how did we ever live without it?! Also at the top of the list the baby bjorn chair – simple yet effective.

    1. Hi Nina! heheh! Really? Well when you don’t have something, you don’t really miss it, I guess? We’re that way with a swing. Didn’t ever have one so I guess I don’t think of it as essential, although most people love it. But I NEEDED that baby carrier hehehe! 🙂

  4. Thank you Ashley for sharing My favorite things you actually need when you have a baby post. A concise list of Everything a Mom could ask for. 😉

    What was the best baby item you couldn’t live without?

  5. Hi Ashley,

    Coming back to your baby posts now I’m in my third trimester! Thanks ! Specific question re your stroller : I’m deciding between the city mini that you seem to have and the city mini gt. I walk a lot and plan to continue with baby. (Wont be running with her, hoping hubby will let me go in the mornings eventually before he’s off to work!) I would prefer the cost of the regular city mini (!) But don’t want to be too constricted as to where I can walk, although I’m not sure I’d actually do a load of rough terrain walks anyway . Have you found the city mini fine for all your walking and any slightly less urban conditions ? Hope you don’t mind my asking! I was encouraged by the fact you used it as I know you like walking too!

    1. Hi Sara! I’ve been very happy with the Citi Mini. I liked it because it is lighter and folds up smaller than the GT. The wheels are great, we’ve taken it on bumpy trails and cobblestone and regular pavement, and it works fine. I think the GT may be a slightly smoother ride, but I haven’t used it. No complaints AT ALL with our choice. Does that help?? 🙂

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