Bare bones baby buying guide

Previously, I gave some advice for ways new parents can avoid becoming overwhelmed by baby-related clutter. Today, I want to discuss what I see to be the essential items that are always useful to new parents. Think of this as the bare-bones guide to stocking a nursery.

(Note: I don’t have any clothing, bibs, or blankets on this list because these are the items people will most likely give to you as gifts. If you’ve decided to go without a baby shower, then you’ll want to add a few of these to your acquisition list.)

Baby Essentials:

  • Portable crib with bassinet attachment. I recommend using a portable playpen with bassinet attachment with a portable bassinet attachment instead of a traditional crib. You can take this with you when you visit the grandparents, you can wheel it next to your bed when the child is sick so that you can keep a watchful eye, and you can do a hundred other things with it that you can’t do with a permanently located crib. Oh, and you’ll likely want two pair of corresponding sheets.
  • Convertible car seat. Buy new, and get a “permanent” convertible seat that can be both back and forward facing as your child grows. I do not recommend buying a separate infant car seat because then you have to purchase a second car seat when the child gets too big for the infant seat. Also, I don’t like the models that snap in and out for dual use between the car and a stroller. Their unused parts are bothersome to store, they are more expensive over the long term, and I’ve found the safety ratings are usually higher on the permanent models. I know some people swear by the snap-in-and-out models, though, so use what is best for you.
  • Stroller. I recommend buying the safest you can find that will grow with your child. I do not recommend getting a frame that snaps in an infant carrier for its seat for the reasons I mentioned in the car-seat entry. If you plan on taking paved trail walks with your child, strongly consider getting a sturdy exercise stroller with good maneuverability. These types of strollers are also great in the snow and slush. Some of my friends are foregoing the stroller and only using a sling/backpack carrier, but by the time their kids are two years old, I think they’ll want the stroller.
  • High chair or booster seat (based on preference). We’ve recently discussed this topic in detail on Unclutterer. The comments to the linked post are very informative.
  • Food service items. These may include a breast pump and assemblies (if applicable), bottles, and formula (if applicable). Make sure that the bottles have age- and purpose-specific nipples so that they serve your child’s growing needs. Also, you will probably want a baby bottle parts cage for the top rack of your dishwasher (you can buy one or make one out of two clean plastic berry baskets and twist ties). This will keep your bottle nipples and sealant rings from flying about the top shelf of your dishwasher. If you don’t own a dishwasher, then boil all parts of the bottle. Also, if you don’t have a dishwasher, you’ll probably want a bottle cleaning brush.
  • Diapers and wipes. Whether you choose to use disposable or cloth, you need them before the baby arrives. Even if you go the disposable route, you will also want cloth diapers and wipes on hand for burping rags and spills. If you use cloth diapers and wipes, you will probably want a diaper disposal system or a trash can with a lid.
  • Home safety items. These may include baby gate, window stops, drawer locks, knob covers, electrical outlet covers, fire ladder (if not on the ground floor) and baby monitor.
  • Hygiene items. Baby nail clippers and/or emery boards, baby-safe body wash and shampoo, and a nasal aspirator.
  • Health items. Baby digital thermometer, a baby pain reliever/fever reducer, gripe water (if your baby has colic), pure lanolin (for mommy, if breastfeeding), and a diaper rash cream.

Additional considerations:

  • Child carrier. You might consider a front/backpack or sling, especially if you’ll often be in spaces where a stroller is cumbersome. The packs that range from infant to toddler will give you the most bang for your buck.
  • Comfortable chair. You probably already have one, but if you don’t, you’ll want someplace comfortable where you can sit for more than half an hour.
  • Electric fan. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics reported that a fan in an infants’ room reduces the risk of SIDS by 72 percent. If you don’t already have a fan, it might be worth it to get one.
  • Diaper service. New parents have enough to do, and outsourcing the washing of stinky diapers to a service sounds like a sane idea to me. I’ve often considered this as a gift I can give to new parents.

My friend Krystal also recommends checking out the Baby and Kids pages on Craigslist to find out what you won’t need. The items most available are often the clutter-prone items.

Consumer Reports recommends buying new car seats, cribs, baby gates, strollers, and breast pumps since you don’t know the history of used items. The rest of the items on this list, excluding the consumable hygiene and health items, are great to find on the cheap over Craigslist or Freecycle. Do check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalled products before making any purchases.

Finally, by no means is this list the law. Think of it as a reference and as nothing more. Once you have your baby home, you may discover that he or she loves the neighbor’s bouncy seat and so you’ll want to bring one into your home, too. For some people, this will be all they have, and for others it will be a starting point.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

74 Comments for “Bare bones baby buying guide”

  1. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    For someone like myself who is looking into have a baby (and reading everything I can find) this is a great list. I like the idea of a diaper service – had not heard of that before. Thanks!

  2. posted by BRG on

    I came to this post thinking I would learn how I could buy a baby. I was disappointed.

  3. posted by Eden on

    We had the Pack & Play since our first child was born and used it some with her. With my second, I rarely used it. I used it some as an extra bassinet but the bouncy seat was portable and easier to take from room to room for daily use.

    Other than a car seat and other basics (diapers, wipes, bottles/breastpump, etc.), the one item I couldn’t have lived without for either newborn was that bouncy seat (it’s like a sling; some have optional vibration or music mode, which annoyed my son so I recommend a plain seat).

  4. posted by Rebecca on

    Pack & Plays are generally big and heavy, and are a pain to lug around. For car trips they take up SO much room, you may not have room for the baby.

    Our solution has been the collapsible, lightweight PeaPod Travel Bed:,5

    Yes, it means you’ll have a crib thing AND a travel bed, but the convenience and portability of the “baby tent” outweighs the desire for Just One Less Thing. Plus, when removed from the case, it instantly pops open. How long is it going to take you to assemble the Pack & Play?

    And I second Eden’s call for a bouncy seat. Lets a small baby see more of the world than when lying down in a crib AND let’s mama bring her babe into the bathroom while she takes her shower. Essential.

  5. posted by Liss on

    I second the idea of see what is essential for _you_. I bought a pack’n’play because my sister-in-law swore by hers. I used mine a handful of times.
    We bought a snap in car seat for our baby, but mostly because it came with a wonderful jogger stroller that we love and can hold a toddler. If it hadn’t come with the hogger stroller, I think we would have gone with the convertible seat.
    We have a saucer that I love–the seat snaps out so when my kids were big enough to crawl and stand up, they could get into the saucer to play with the toys on it. It’s a pain to store, but has definitely been worth it for entertainment value over time.
    Also, see ParentHacks for a similar discussion of best and worst baby supplies.

  6. posted by kirsty on

    On strollers: if you look around you’ll notice that the bigger the child is the smaller the stroller gets. I don’t think I’ve known anyone get by with just one. Selling on the newborn’s big, heavy pram and acquiring a lighter weight one could be a good plan. I wanted to get by without a stroller and just bought a sling to start with but ended up needing one for others to push.

    Babies really don’t need much, and – unless you really do live in the back of beyond – you can always send people out to buy things after you discover a need for them.

  7. posted by Wendy on

    No need for a crib of any sort if you decide to co-sleep. I realize it’s not for everyone, but it worked really well for us. My son just slept with me as long as he wanted. We did buy a crib, and it never got used. I wish someone had suggested co-sleeping to me beforehand; I’d have saved my money. 🙂

  8. posted by Josie on

    This is a great list! I love that you suggest forgoing a traditional crib, and just using a pack n’ play. We did this with our two kids and it worked out great.

    I, too, tried to keep the baby gear to a bare minimum. My list is posted over at: Organized Mommy.

  9. posted by Marisa on

    We have a crib in our son’s nursery but use the pack n’ play in our bedroom (where he sleeps the majority of the time). My only problem with the pack n’ play is that now that my son is pulling himself up, he likes to stand in the pack n’ play and I’m afraid he will jump right over the side. Maybe I am just a scared new mother…
    Just a note about traveling with the pack n’ play – that thing is HUGE and does not fit well in the trunk of the car when you have to bring the stroller too (it is like tetris getting everything to fit). Since our son has been congested, we have found that he sleeps better in a bouncer anyway because it keeps his head elevated. The bouncer travels much better than the big ole pack n’ play.

  10. posted by Ann on

    LOVE the Diaper Champ. Uses plain ol kitchen trash bags. Much cheaper that the diaper genie ones.

    We used our pack n play a lot. I put the baby in it on the back porch so she could get fresh air while I worked on my laptop. Also great for taking to grandma’s house.

    We could not have lived without the baby swing. DD had reflux and couldnt sleep flat on her back. She slept in the swing for 4 months. Right next to our bed.

  11. posted by Jen B. on

    I almost never use my stroller. Instead I use baby carriers. They take up way less room and I get to snuggle my little one. Search for baby carrier or baby sling for options beyond snuggli and baby bjoern.

  12. posted by Amanda on

    This is great. Also, for families who opt not to buy a changing table (a piece of furniture that doesn’t transition well, becoming obsolete and unwieldy after 18 months) a diaper caddy is a great way to go. It carries everything you need for diaper changes etc and will easily move to wherever the baby is being changed.

    Our version is a washable, fabric-lined basket. available in a variety of patterns.

  13. posted by cv on

    I don’t have kids yet, but one problem I always have with these sorts of “minimum requirement” lists is that they make no mention of how your lifestyle and living situation affect what you need. If you live in a multi-story house, you may want a crib upstairs and a pack-and-play or other napping spot on the lower floor. If you live in a 900 square foot apartment, you may not need a baby monitor, and having two sleeping areas would just get in the way. Urban parents who drive very little but use public transportation will have different requirements for carriers, car seats and strollers than suburban parents.

    That said, this seems like a good basic, general list.

  14. posted by Jeanne on

    I need to disagree with the Diaper Champ (because it said it worked for cloth) for cloth diapers. We bought one and are realizing (after six weeks) that a step-on garbage pail would be a LOT better. You end up needing to touch a lot more of the Diaper Champ when changing a diaper, and the diapers aren’t always as “self-contained” as disposables can be. With a step-on (and these wonderful cloth bags we use to replace disposable trash bags) it’s a LOT simpler. And the trash barrel can be used for another purpose once the baby outgrows diapers. Also, if you’re cloth diapering, the diaper warmer which fits cloth wipes is AMAZINGLY useful, preventing running back and forth to the sink.

    I don’t work for Cotton Babies or anything, but I have been finding their site extremely useful as we learn how to survive cloth diapering.

    This is a great list!

  15. posted by Shari on

    We do a lot of co-sleeping in our house as well. If your family is considering this, I would suggest forgoing the crib (which usually leads to the toddler bed, then a “big kid” bed with rails, etc) and just putting a full size mattresses on the floor of the nursery. We haven’t had to change a thing (as in buy more stuff!)in 3 years, nor did we struggle with the transitions of moving the child from crib to bed. As a bonus – she has a perfectly safe “trampoline” in her room!

  16. posted by Raisin on

    We have the car seat that is recommended, and all it does it takes up space. We mainly use the dual use car seat because we combine all the errands that we are going to do during a day into one trip. It is much easier to transfer the baby from the car to the stroller, and back multiple times in one trip without waking the baby.

    I’d rather have the baby stay sleeping as we make multiple stops.

    In any case, our plan was diapers, clothes, wipes, receiving blankets, a crib, car seat and a stroller.

    Oh, and a bunch of gift cards and a savings account. Our plan (which worked pretty well) was to buy what we needed, when we needed it. Even that didn’t work out because he had an allergy to scented wipes. So we have a bunch of wipes that we didn’t use.

    In any case, every baby is different, and one universal list just isn’t going to work.

  17. posted by Jasi on

    Nice list

  18. posted by molly on

    I was told that in VA (and many other states) you must have an infant car seat because it is the law. Also, many hospital don’t allow you to leave until they inspect/see your car seat. You may want to check your state’s laws.

    These lists are helpful but everyone has their own opinion about what you need and don’t need. Lifestyles also vary greatly depending on where you live (city verses suburbs).

  19. posted by Erin Doland on

    @molly — Many convertible car seats meet the infant car seat law. I linked to the one in this article because I read that it was … but now I can’t find the page where I found that information. The convertible seats face both front and back, and the good ones have the cushion insert for infants. The easiest way to double check this information is to go to your local fire department. Where we live in Northern Virginia, the fire department will install the car seat, review the safety elements in the seat, and let you know of any potential problems.

  20. posted by Gigi on

    I used cloth diapers on my daughter, and since she was born overseas, we had access to diaper liners (I’ve seen them on Amazon but not at local stores). They were fantastic–they go inside the diaper and when you change the baby you just take the liner and the poop and drop it into the toilet. They’re big enough that very little poop ever escapes and the diapers stay cleaner. You don’t have poop sitting around in the diapers making a stink until you can get them washed. I never felt the need for a diaper service or for a diaper genie etc. Definitely worth finding if you use cloth diapers.

  21. posted by Jay on

    An alternative to the Pack N Play, which we never bought or used, is a portable crib. We purchased a sturdy metal portable crib that is narrow enough to push through a standard door frame and easy to lift and carry. Even if you don’t move it around the house, it takes up much less space in whatever room your baby sleeps in.

    We bought one made by Cosco:

  22. posted by Sarah on

    Our twins were 5 weeks premature. Although we wanted to use the convertible car seat, it just barely passed the hospital test. (Nurses fasten the child in the car seat for a certain period of time to be sure the baby’s head is secure). It was approved for 5-40 pounds. Our children were just under and just over six pounds upon release.
    Also, with twins and I’m sure other multiples, the snap-in car seat is a lot easier when coupled with the snap-in stroller. Moving more than one baby from car seat to stroller becomes dangerous in a parking lot. The snap-ins are quicker. The outdoor temperature is also a concern.

  23. posted by Sarah on

    I would add to the list:

    1. antibacterial hand gel.
    2. hand lotion.

    All that washing and disinfecting does a number on parents’ hands.

  24. posted by momofthree on

    Car seat–A must by Illinois state law, and I assume most other states.
    My favorite item by far was the baby sling!! Talk about portable!! used it for all three kids. Was pretty well worn by the end of #3’s use!
    When all three were in diapers/training, I had the Land’s End big version of the Do It All Diaper Bag!! Room for clothes and necessities for all three, and room for my mom stuff too!! Cloth diapers I washed at pants too!!
    My second was a runner and climber, so to control her, I got a wrist strap for her and I to share. I was quite a site walking around anywhere. One in the sling, one on the strap, and one on my hand, with the diaper bag also over a shoulder.

    ( I was a pack mule in a former life I decided) But, with the sling, the strap, and diaper bag, I was never a stay at home mom…I was ALWAYS out and about!!!

  25. posted by Layton on

    I agree with the poster who said that as the children get bigger the strollers get smaller. We bought a MacLaren stroller (, basically a high-end umbrella stroller, and have used it from 3 months until now, 2 years later. It holds kids up to 55 pounds.

    I’ve tried several slings, including the Baby Bjorn, and have been most happy with the simple sling made by Hotslings ( After 25 lbs. or so I found the ergo baby backpack much easier (

  26. posted by Sairey Gamp on

    Working in human resources, I get to talk to every prospective parent in our organization when they’re all excited and just found out for sure that they’re pregnant. I tell every one of them: Get in the habit of photographing that new baby’s face every day for the first month or so, every week for the first 6 months, then every month for the rest of their lives. And then make you a flip book!

  27. posted by dtj on

    When buying babies, I tend to buy them a little chubby rather than the barebones versions. Sure you pay a premium, but ultimately it works out much better.

  28. posted by Naomi on

    Regarding the car seats, I would strongly recommend parents dish out the cash and get an infant seat to start off with. I was tempted by advertising to go with a convertible seat, until I did some research on Consumer Reports and spoke with other parents who had gone this route (none of whom recommended it). Newborn infants need to sit in a fairly reclined position, which is often difficult to achieve in a convertible seat, risking the infant’s safety in the event of an accident. Infant seats are better designed in this respect, and the ones that snap into a base have the added convenience of being very portable to take with you (ie. shopping, eating out, etc.) without disturbing your sleeping baby, which will be invaluable at times!

  29. posted by Polly on

    Still too much stuff on this list to call it bare bones at the Unclutterer site.

    We’re expecting baby #5 and have never owned a crib ( co-sleep) or a stroller ( sling or backpack) or a snap in seat ( I’d rather hold my baby than carry it in a bucket).

    To make diaper liners, cut rectangles of polarfleece.
    Buy a pack of washclothes at the dollar store and use instead of wipes.

  30. posted by Danielle LaPorte on

    my favourite thing to do for new mommies is tell them all the things they DON’T need…like…baby bags (a napsack is good enough for diapers and bottles, and doens’t have silly duckies on it,) those damn Diaper Genies that wrap each diaper up in plastic – horrible for the environment. Personally, we never used a crib – co sleepers all the way. Never got a change table either – I had a basket full of diaper stuff and a mat and changed him wherever – usually on the bed. Stuffed animals – nightmare for space and my kid rarely touches them. Baby soap and shampoo – not necessary – a bit of natural stuff is just fine.

  31. posted by Jess on

    Lovely list, I Stumbled upon it.

    I’m a little bit worried at the notion of putting baby bottles in the dishwasher, though. Even if it’s only SUSPECTED to be risky, I’d still rather do anything in my power to keep away from that risk.

  32. posted by Kate on

    Why on earth would you *buy* a car seat when you can just borrow one from Plunket or similar organisation?

  33. posted by Erin Doland on

    I didn’t mention co-sleeping as a possibility in my article because I know it is such a hot-button issue. The statistical fights abound about co-sleeping increasing the risk of SIDS, and conversely the fans of co-sleeping arguing the legitimacy of those reports. I wouldn’t touch that issue with a 10-foot pole. It’s an argument that is better suited for medical professionals to have on their pediatric websites, not for an organization website.

  34. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kate — Consumer Reports and other safety organizations strongly recommend that you should buy car seats new. Used car seats could have been involved in accidents, experienced wear and tear through regular use, and suffered damage that isn’t visually apparent.

  35. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Polly — It is illegal to transport a child in a sling in a car. You MUST transport the child in a government approved child safety seat. You are breaking the law if you do not do so and can have your child removed from your care if caught breaking the law.

  36. posted by Erin on

    Last year I created my own list of top baby items which you can find here: http://creationhalt.blogspot.c.....rents.html. I don’t think they count as clutter (I went back and looked) unless you don’t get rid of things as your child grows out of them.

  37. posted by Erin on

    Oh and I don’t know if it was mentioned in the comments but I heard on the news that if you do use a fan in a child’s room do not have the fan blowing directly on the child.

  38. posted by Doug on

    I’d take stroller off the required list, and stick sling on there – we’ve got a wrap sling which will work right up till they are pretty big, I’ve had my 3Yo in it when I’ve run her ragged. In addition, by the time she was 2.5 she walked everywhere we did, which is quite a lot, so we didn’t really need the stroller – except for No2.

    I’d also echo earlier comments – DON’T buy specific wipes – making them is so much cheaper, we started out using a kitch roll sawn in half with the bread knife, soaked in a mixture of olive oil and liquid soap – then moved on to very cheap flannels, which are working well with No 2, I still make a roll of disposables from time to time when we need it.

    In terms of cost – I did a pretty comprehensive look at costing up cloth Vs. Disposables and the cloth came out just about ahead for the first child, and way ahead for the second child on cost.

  39. posted by jonathan on

    I was under the impression that dedicated infant seats (we call them capsules in Australia) are considered safer for newborns than a convertible seat. And don’t underestimate the convenience of being able to grab the handle & lift it out of the car with your sleeping baby in it.

  40. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Doug — The following text appears in the article: “Child carrier. You might consider a front/backpack or sling, especially if you’ll often be in spaces where a stroller is cumbersome.”

  41. posted by Sean on

    I’ll second some of the comments already left here. The bouncer, and the saucer for older babies, is invaluable. We also couldn’t have gotten along without our rocking chair. On the flip side, I thought the Baby Bjorn was cool when I saw it, but we just never used it. Ditto for a swing. It took up too much space, and my boys both hated it. And while we liked our crib, we spent far too much money on it. I think the most valuable lesson we learned was that it’s not necessary to buy all things “baby”. You don’t need a baby dresser, a regular dresser will do. Same for backpacks vs. baby bags, etc. If you have to ask, why would I buy this, you probably shouldn’t.

  42. posted by klza on

    Loved this post! Expectant parents are sitting ducks for *expert* advice, most of which comes from those with a vested interest in selling all those must-haves. I’m embarrassed to admit that my husband and I got sucked in, but once our first arrived we realized that 90% of the stuff was completely unnecessary.

    While it won’t work for everybody, we used a sling for both our children, then switched to a light-weight Combi stroller once they got too heavy to carry comfortably. We did use an infant seat, which I found well worth the money. Once they reached about nine months, we traded the infant seat for a Britax convertible car seat.

    We also co-slept, leaving the expensive crib empty much of the time, and I breastfed until they were both using regular plastic cups, so we didn’t need bottles. The big diaper bag sat in the boot of the car, because we were hardly ever in a situation where we couldn’t run out to the parking lot for extra supplies. I carried a few wipes and a diaper in my purse.

    Honestly, all that was really necessary for the first six months was clothing, diapers, and me. Of course, the baby industry wouldn’t want me to tell you that. It’s bad for business!

  43. posted by Another Deb on

    Ok, the only thing I don’t see on the list is one of those super cool strollers from Sea World that are shaped like a dolphin.

    I love the advice about photographing the baby’s face to make a flip-book! I have some new little people in my family and will suggest that idea to their parents.

  44. posted by Polly on

    Erin – I DO always use car seats, but they stay in the car.

  45. posted by Lu on

    From someone who now has a 12 and 15 year old:

    Backpacks: Made life so much easier. We did the dishes with babies on our backs, vacuumed, went on walks. And if you travel, there is nothing better for getting around airports.

    Strollers: A jog stroller is an excellent investment, if you have room to store it. The can go up and down curbs so much easier then regular strollers not to mention walks through the woods. And they are much smaller now than when my kids were little.

    Food: Breast-feeding is obviously your best way to cut down on bottle paraphernalia but that is a personal choice. Baby food on the other hand is just silly: when your baby is ready to start eating just mush up some bananas and avocados and let them go to town.

    Sleeping: We had a crib and a pack-n-play. We did a ton of traveling to visit various grandparents so it was nice to have something portable. For the crib, when the kids were big enough we bought a used “toddle bed” to replace the crib (a bed that can use a crib mattresses). That meant between two children we used the crib/mattress for at least 6 years. And it worked out well with having two kids in our tiny apartment before we bought out house.

    And finally to all new parents: Garage sales are your friends. You can feel free to buy that Little Tykes kitchen for 20 bucks, use it for a year and then get rid of it completely guilt-free when you decide that it is too clutter-y or the kids don’t like it any more. Brilliant.

    Thank you for making this list. Babies really don’t need much- love, food, and clothing. A place to sleep. A convenient way to move them about is a great bonus. And they will grow up so much faster than you think anyway, so enjoy it all!

  46. posted by Amanda on

    I would also suggest considering the likely size of your baby when deciding what you need- our baby outgrew the Baby Bjorn in about 20 seconds so I wish we had got the Ergo instead. She also hated the Pack n’ Play which we got because a friend said we “had to have it” and now that she is 15 months it is too small anyway. I also note that unless you use it daily as suggested, storing it can be an issue as it is big. One exception though I would make is to get a newborn car seat- Consumer Reports rated them as being safer for newborns.

  47. posted by Jennifer on

    Great post, but the only thing I disagree with is the need for an infant carseat.

    Being a new parent is *very* stressful and you cherish when your baby is sleeping. If you have to transfer your sleeping child to a crib, or wherever, after you arrive at your destination, you will many times awaken that sleeping child making for a tired baby *and* a disappointed mommy or daddy who really need a break.

    My other comment is…have no fear…as much as you plan you will end up buying something that your child does not use and conversely, you will probably need to buy something to suit your child after its born. It’s all trial and error. Every child has a different personality and different preferences.

    Good luck to the new mommies and daddies.

  48. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Polly — Awesome.

  49. posted by laura on

    great list. almost exactly the same as my own, but as others have said, the infant car seat is considered much safer for the first 6 months than convertible car seats, and i really consider that essential.
    i had an infant seat that snapped into an umbrella stroller (britax companion and britax preview, great reviews on consumer reports)
    when you live in the city and don’t have your own car the infant travel systems with umbrella strollers are really great, it gives you the freedom to take a cab every now and then, or you can still take the bus, holding the car seat and putting the stroller on a strap over your shoulder.
    the seat on that particular stroller folded almost completely flat so it could be used as a bassinet, and that was where our daughter slept for the first two months of her life. after that we just put a crib mattress on the floor beside our bed.

  50. posted by heather on

    I’m on baby #2, and I’m a firm believer in infant seats. The baby is more secure, especially when they’re really small. And getting a floppy, can’t-hold-my-head-up newborn in and out of a rear-facing convertible seat isn’t easy. Esp. if you’ve had a c-section. Also — if the baby is asleep, you want her to stay asleep. Car rides are a great way to get a baby to fall asleep, and if you have to dig them out of the car seat to carry them inside, they often wake back up.

    There are several infant seats now that will take a baby to 30lbs and 30 inches — well beyond the 1-yr mark for most babies. Worth the investment, in my mind, and safer.

    And I’m sorry, but I have yet to meet a parent who has been able to live with just one stroller. We have a great, ultra-compact Maclaren for doing stuff in the city or traveling, and a comfy sport stroller for walking.

    I think this list is very different for every parent and child. The key is to buy the bare minimum before the baby comes — a crib, the car seat, a comfy chair — and then buy the rest after the baby arrives and you’ve had the chance to assess the baby’s personality and your own needs.

  51. posted by Saderchick on

    One caveat on ‘convertible’ seats — most have a 5-lb. minimum. If your baby is premature, or for any other reason does not weigh quite 5 lbs. when it’s time to leave the hospital, you’ll be stuck. Especially a possibility if you’re having multiples. Peg Perego is one infant seat brand that has no lower weight limit.

  52. posted by Kate on

    I wouldn’t include high chair or booster seat on the “essentials” list for the beginning… it will be quite awhile until you need one, so why not wait to buy it until it’s necessary?

  53. posted by Kate on

    Erin – Plunket etc stress test and recheck their car seats to ensure they are up to international safety standards. I don’t think those who cannot afford to buy a car seat (such as I!)should be put off this option, because most of the loaner seats *are* new and the rest have been retested, often by being sent back to the manufacturer. there’s nothing wrong with them.

  54. posted by Rebecca on

    Geez, so many people poo-pooing the convertible infant/toddler car seat. My kid is still alive, both my arms are the same length (baby + removable seat = heavy) and I didn’t need to buy yet another gizmo. I’m very happy with my decision.

    And if any of you are still debating the safer or not issue, here’s Freakonomics author Steven Levitt sharing data showing that car seats are no more safe for kids than a regular old seat belt. It’s very interesting stuff:

  55. posted by empty on

    We used our sling and backpack carrier a lot, but I can only assume that people who forgo a stroller entirely spend a lot of time in their cars and only walk for the entertainment value. I have a walking commute to our son’s preschool and my office, and he refuses to walk almost a mile uphill on the way there, and I can’t carry him AND his lunch, my lunch, my work bag, plus anything he needs at school that day on my person, especially now that he’s pushing 40 pounds and I am pregnant again. Given that we often stop at the grocery store on the way home it’s not possible to carry him plus everything else on the downhill trip home either. A stroller is essential for us. Although I suppose we might pinch-hit with a Radio Flyer if worst came to worst.

    We did get a crib, and thank goodness for that, because our baby turned out to be one of those who preferred to sleep solo and never hid his distaste for being in bed with us. Babies like this make up a sizable minority of the population, as some friends who were absolutely certain they would co-sleep discovered shortly before heading out on emergency crib-purchasing runs. Trying to assemble a new crib after a week without sleep to the background symphony of screaming newborn is my definition of hell, so getting a crib in advance felt like cheap insurance to me. But I have never regretted buying a cheap crib given that our son used it for teething, even though he is still sleeping in it at age three.

    My revised new baby list would be a crib, car seat, sleepers, two baby bottles, baby nail clippers, and diapers, with everything else purchased on an as-needed basis (the hospital would have given us formula but not bottles if I’d been unable to nurse; instead we rented a breast pump from them), but everyone’s life is different. And not everyone lives a few blocks from their pediatrician, a hospital, and three baby stores as we do. Nonetheless checking out things like strollers later, with a fussy baby in one arm and a diaper bag on the other, turned out to be an excellent strategy for getting stuff that works well for actual parents rather stuff that impresses starry-eyed expecting couples. Almost everything we bought before the baby was born that wasn’t on the short list above turned out to have been a mistake.

  56. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kate — At Unclutterer, we have to consider the implications of everything we write — especially when it concerns babies. We can’t ensure that all used programs go through safety checks, but we know that companies selling their products new on the market do go through checks. It is much more socially responsible for us to speak toward cross-the-board safety than it is to make a suggestion we cannot guarantee to be reasonably safe.

    Most importantly, we are experienced enough to know that many, many of our readers do not read the full text of posts. Every Wednesday at least one, usually more, people leave a comment about Unitasker Wednesday posts asking us why we’re promoting Unitaskers. It’s a weekly feature and people don’t even take the time to ingest the text. If we say “it’s okay to buy used from X company” many people will just see “it’s okay to buy used.” We have to think about the implications of all of our advice.

  57. posted by mbm on

    We were all about buying the convertible carseat.

    Unfortunately, no convertible car seat will fit rear-facing in our car. In fact, only one model of infant seat will fit, so I hope baby doesn’t outgrow it until she is old enough to face forward in another seat. Clutter, maybe, but cheaper than a new car!

    Also, car seats have expiration dates (the plastic breaks down)! Who knew? So be careful if you get a used one.

  58. posted by Karen the Californian on

    I couldn’t live without my Baby Bargains Book! It’s a great book that helped me choose which baby items were necessary, which weren’t, and most importantly, what brands were better/safer/more useful and which brands were not. Make sure you see the most recent edition of the book (they change every other year or so). This book was the one that let me know that cloth-upholstered high chairs are a horrible no-no, and also confirmed my suspicion that baby changing tables are not necessary.

  59. posted by Di on

    I have to say that list is too long for me – half of your essentials list would be clutter in our house.
    Porta-cot – we co-sleep when traveling and large amounts of the time at home so we had no use of one of these (and never bought one)
    Carseat – while yes we do have a convertible, we hired the capsule or borrowed from friends we trust.
    Stroller – used slings mostly so again not really needed (again didn’t buy one for ages – first child was 10 months old before we bought one).
    High chair – isn’t needed until starting solids so can go on the wait to buy list.
    That is not even going into the suggestions of what might be included under the topic.

    My basic list is
    Some way for baby to be in a car safe
    some way for baby to be transported out of car
    clothes (which includes nappies)
    somewhere for baby to sleep
    somehow for baby to eat

    The baby health stuff is a buy as you need, the safety stuff again is buy as you need.

  60. posted by Someone on

    Thanks for the article, but I’m not in the market for buying a bare bones baby at the moment.

  61. posted by Tiimbo on

    Great post, and great comments. I’ve been on several parenting blogs where any post immediately devolves into a shouting match about breast/formula or co-sleeping/crib. I guess the Unclutter crowd is just more civilized than others.

    “Home safety items”

    These are important but another area that can wait, I think. For the first few months, an infant can’t get into anything in the house (e.g., electrical sockets, stairs) that could be harmful. And there are such differences between babies — our first son couldn’t care less about outlets, but baby #2 had to touch all of them.

    If it turns out that you’ve got a spirited kid who gets into everything, then batten down the hatches. If you don’t, you may feel like it was a waste to buy and install tons of protective devices everywhere.

  62. posted by Clare on

    Plunket is a national organization here in New Zealand devoted to under 5’s and their family. It is not so much a company as a part of our identity. Kate may not realise that not all countries in the world have such a good service. All babies born here have the right to visits from plunket nurses, providing support in the early years. So in context although buying/renting second hand isn’t ideal, here the plunket car seat rental scheme is trustworthy. See

  63. posted by Molly on

    I must hang out with hippies! Half these things seem like unnecessary clutter to me. My friends with kids have mostly done co-sleeping (no crib), a lot of slings (no strollers), don’t need carseats because they don’t have cars, are in breastfeeding-friendly professions and don’t need pumps or bottles, don’t need high chairs because the baby breastfeeds long enough ze can just sit in a regular chair by the time ze’s eating with the family, etc, etc, etc.

    I guess being a hippie is good for uncluttering! Though, to be fair, I don’t have kids yet myself.

  64. posted by Tom on

    I just have to say that you can skip the stroller and cribs altogether. We co-slept with all our children from birth and wear all of them using a sling, wrap, or other soft structured carrier. And both my wife and I prefer wearing to stroller use even for our 3 yr old.

    But to each their own.

  65. posted by Cynthia Freeman on

    Having an ergo baby carrier actually helped me unclutter – there’s a little pocket in the carrier that will hold a diaper or two and wipes, and i got the little fanny-pack-like attachment for the hip belt that would hold my wallet, keys, cell phone, some kiddie snacks any other crucial small items i needed. i could spend half a day or more out of the house with no diaper bag or temptation to lug a lot of extra stuff along!

  66. posted by paxye on

    I am another of the “hippies”

    no crib (co-sleep and real bed when they are ready), no strollers (wraps and slings… and I have 3 kids), breastmilk right from the source needs no accessories, EC is great way to use less diapers….

  67. posted by Stephanie on

    Rebecca-I tried to watch the video you posted…but it was just too ridiculous to finish. I hope no one actually believes that children at 2 years old should ride with only an adult seat belt. At that age it is a FACT that they need a child restraint, and should be rear facing still as well!

  68. posted by Karen on

    I think the most important thing is just to be *mindful* when shopping for your baby. Use a clutter-free mindset, think realistically about what your situation calls for, and get what you’ll really need and use rather than what “everyone” says you “must have” or “definitely don’t need”.

    We love to hold our baby and use slings whenever possible, but unlike Smug Polly, we found the “baby bucket” snap-in-snap-out scenario to be perfect. Why? Well, we had to have a carseat either way. And because we both had to work, one of us dropped baby off at daycare in her bucket, and the other one picked her up. Baby could nap in her bucket if she was fussy, or sit in it sometimes while the older kids played outside. One carseat + 2 bases + stroller frame + swing frame is less cluttersome than two carseats, a stroller, and a swing. An added benefit for my November baby was not having to stuff her into winter outerwear or ever expose her to the elements when she was tiny tiny.

    And – get this – when we got somewhere, if the baby was sleeping, we snapped her into the stroller. If she was awake, we popped her into the sling. Choices! Incredible.

    And now, we have converted to the older-baby-plan we made. Convertible seats, slings, and a lightweight Combi umbrella stroller when necessary.

    The other day I took off with my 6 month old tucked in a wrap sling and a diaper wallet on my wrist. We used the bus to get to the metro station, the metro to go to the zoo and walk around for 4 hours, and then metro home. It was awesome! She was happy as a clam and boy, did I earn my hotdog.

    Cosleeping is a great idea, but it doesn’t work for every family, even ones that would prefer it. I can cosleep with baby, but only if my super-light-sleeping partner goes off to the guest room.

  69. posted by Michelle on

    Great list! I would add not to skimp on a stroller or a baby carrier. I ended up going through 4 strollers until I found the right one and in the end it was the most expensive (Bugaboo Frog) that had I just bought it to begin with I would have been fine. Plus it has a wheeled board you can attach to the back when your child is old enough not to want to sit but still too small to walk everywhere. Also, I highly recommend the ErgoBaby carrier. I tried a bunch and this was the one with the most comfortable support and can be worn on the front or back. I think the cost for this carrier is comparable to the Baby Bjorn.

  70. posted by LAL on

    Great post, got it from a friend. Awesome. Just about to have my first baby and I’ve got tons of clutter.

    But I’m okay with it. I got a free infant seat, so I’ll buy a convertible later. From reading online, the problem with convertibles is they can be too big for some newborn infants because the shoulder straps don’t fit.

    Got a free co sleeper, I’ll get a crib later. I have a free swing, pack and play, bassinet, etc. I’m going to test out what is necessary and go from there.

    I’ve gotten a ton of free and used clothes too.

    Now I need to buy a stroller and monitor and possibly a couple of other things. Ugh the clutter!

  71. posted by DeAnna on

    Great list. The only thing I would add is Pedialyte, for when your four-week old is vomitting up/crapping out every feeding. The only thing I would exclude is a nasal aspirator, ONLY if you’re delivering in the hospital, b/c they will send you home with the one you use, and it’s better than any one you can buy. Our seven-month-old is in a pack & play, b/c our oldest is still in the crib ($80 new @ Ikea), and we love it. Easy to assemble, mobile and very compact.

  72. posted by Once on


    You need to quit believing everything the car-seat industry tells you, and finish listening to that lecture. The DATA shows that a child who is more than 24 months old is EQUALLY safe in a regular car seat as he is in a standard forward-facing add-on car seat.

    Note that I said “data”, not “gut feeling” or “advertisement-driven quasi-religious beliefs”, and that the two are “equally” safe: A regular seat belt is not a safer (or less safe) choice, and no claim is made that it is more comfortable (because it’s not).

    At the end, the Freakonomics speaker advocates for a system that would be MORE safe than what is currently required. Surely all parents and other people of good will could support a system that actually reduces children’s injuries. The scandal here is that so many people are shelling out $100 per toddler (NOT infants!) for a system that actually provides no additional value compared to a regular seat belt.

  73. posted by Leah Goodman on

    To those who say that a stroller is not a necessity, it really depends on your situation. I have back problems, my 9-month-old is about 22 pounds, I have a 2-year-old to chase around, and I’m frequently on my own with the two kids. I use a double stroller quite a lot of the time (I bought it used and will probably be able to sell it for close to what I paid for it)

    I have friends who have an only child who is an 18-month-old who is about 17 lbs. They frequently carry her around in a back carrier when both parents are together. Different situations call for different equipment.

  74. posted by adda ella on

    We have the car seat that is recommended, and all it does it takes up space. We mainly use the dual use car seat because we combine all the errands that we are going to do during a day into one trip. It is much easier to transfer the baby from the car to the stroller, and back multiple times in one trip without waking the baby.

    I’d rather have the baby stay sleeping as we make multiple stops.

    In any case, our plan was diapers, clothes, wipes, receiving blankets, a crib, car seat and a stroller.

    Oh, and a bunch of gift cards and a savings account. Our plan (which worked pretty well) was to buy what we needed, when we needed it. Even that didn’t work out because he had an allergy to scented wipes. So we have a bunch of wipes that we didn’t use.

    In any case, every baby is different, and one universal list just isn’t going to work.

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