Throughout the history of time, babies (and all people, actually) have had the same basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, and love. How we fulfill those needs looks a little different in every age, but the underlying needs have not changed. I prefer to take a minimalist approach in preparing for my newborns – I have never had loads of money to spend on fancy things, and I have found I really prefer not to have lots of things around that I probably won’t use anyway. So I’ve whittled my list down over the years, and here it is – what a new baby (and mother) really needs. (PS – this post is absolutely not sponsored, these are just 1. things I use and love or 2. patterns I want/plan to try):
FOOD – we nurse exclusively, so our feeding needs are very minimal, and really mostly optional, they’re just what I like to have around.
- Nursing Pads – Lansinoh disposable ones are the nicest disposable ones I have tried, and I used them for years, but last pregnancy I invested in some washable ones, and they have been AMAZING, so much more comfortable (and less stinky). I like the stay-dry ones from Mother-ease, and their bamboo ones are a close second (it looks like they might not carry those anymore, but I bet their organic cotton ones are even better). They’re nice and big and soft and comfy and they are wonderfully absorbent and effective.
- Nursing Cover – I don’t use this at home, but when I go out, especially in the beginning, I like to have some privacy as baby is figuring out nursing. I have had a simple cotton one for years, and loved it (I sewed it myself without a pattern – it’s nice and big and light, perfect for Arizona) and this time I want to try one like this too – it offers more back coverage, and since I am occasionally working away from home right now, I think it might be more comfortable for nursing around large groups of people.
- (Optional) Manual Breast Pump – I got mine at the hospital (for free – just ask, it might be covered by your insurance) after baby #2 and I don’t use it much, but almost always I have a day or two of engorgement when my milk comes in, and I have found this hand pump to be so valuable in relieving some of that pressure so baby can nurse without so much difficulty and I’m not so uncomfortable. We generally don’t even use the milk (sad, I know!) because my babies won’t take bottles, but it helps me and baby so I am grateful to have it.
- Actual Clothes – I keep this VERY simple. I like to have: 5-10 baby tees (not onesies, because they never fit my babies well over cloth diapers), a couple of sleepers (we don’t use these much, but once in a while we will), a couple of pairs of baby booties (I sew these, so unlike baby socks they will actually stay on – I have used this pattern for years and it works beautifully, but this time we’re having a May baby so I want something a little cooler. I’ll be trying this pattern this time around.), and a Sunday outfit (simple knit dress or shirt/pants set, depending on baby’s gender). A couple of hats, like this and this, are nice for right at first. And if it is cold I like to have something warm to put over the rest. And that’s it. We do cloth diapers, so if it is cold we will use wool pants over them, and if it is warm, wool wraps or soakers or regular cloth diaper covers fill in for pants around here. A note: we practice Elimination Communication from the beginning too, so we need easy access to take baby to go potty. So our clothing choices reflect that as well. For more information about Elimination Communication go HERE – it is an amazing thing!
- Blankets – I think these are part of the reason I don’t feel the need for more clothing for my babies. We always have baby wrapped in something soft and cozy, so I don’t feel like we need lots of other layers, and we don’t leave the house much in those early days, so baby doesn’t need to be dressed in actual clothes very often. A couple of tutorials I’m planning to try this time: DIY muslin swaddle blankets and this knit swaddle tutorial. (I’m a little too excited about this!)
- Cloth Diapers – I go a little crazy with nesting especially in this area, but if I were talking to a new mom just starting out, especially a new mom on a tight budget, I would say to get 2-3 dozen prefolds (Novice size from Green Mountain Diapers is what we are using this time – they are the same size as smalls, but fewer layers, so they aren’t as bulky on a new baby and can be used longer than newborn size too), 4 or so pairs of diaper pins (I’ve tried other types of fasteners and just didn’t prefer them, pins have always worked best for me), and 6-8 newborn and/or small diaper covers (all of those can be purchased new from GMD, or you can look for them used – see my post New or Used for tips about buying new vs. buying used diapers). That’s all you really NEED. Optional – if you have the room in your finances to make it a little easier on yourself, you can also add other styles of diapers, 3 dozen cloth wipes, a diaper pail liner (put it in a regular garbage can or hang in your bathroom/changing area), and maybe a wet bag to put diapers in when you are out and about. If not – cut up old t-shirts for wipes or sew them from flannel remnants from Walmart or JoAnn’s, put wet and soiled diapers in a plastic laundry basket until wash day, and keep a plastic bag in your purse or diaper bag for away-from-home changes. We have always had a diaper pail liner – we invested in that right away – but I have definitely made my own wipes from flannel remnants and carried a plastic bag for changes on the go. Totally doable and not a big deal.
- Diaper Bag (optional) – I finally bought a real (high quality) diaper bag with my last baby that I will be using this time too. Before that I tried different less expensive ones and they never worked for me, too much space and only on one shoulder and they inevitably gave me headaches. So instead I would just use a bigger purse and toss a diaper and wipes and nursing cover or blanket in there. Easy. The bag I invested in last time and still have is a Jujube BFF – it converts from a shoulder bag to a backpack and is the most comfortable diaper bag I have ever owned, plus it fits everything I need in it (and then some) and looks nice. Of course I bought it used – check Mercari or Poshmark for used bags at good prices. I also bought a SkipHop Duo – on Craigslist – and I really like it too but it isn’t quite as comfortable when fully loaded. We keep it in the car to hold a baby carrier and some extra clothing and diapers.
- A Bed (of some sort) – Baby needs somewhere to sleep. That will vary greatly from family to family, but my personal preference is to have a bassinet in my room for the first 3-6 months (until baby starts rolling over or sitting up) and honestly, most of the time baby will sleep with me for the first while anyway. So the bassinet just sits there looking pretty until I feel like baby is ready to use it, and even then it mostly just gets used for naps and early evening, as I will take baby back to bed with me after getting up to nurse. We just all get more sleep that way. We do have a crib too, and we’ve had it through all of our babies – it’s a good sturdy one from Burlington Coat Factory. Our main criteria for that was that it was sturdy – we probably looked pretty silly going through department stores shaking all the cribs, but we knew we wanted several children, and we wanted one that would last, and we didn’t have tons of money to spend on it. This one was fairly inexpensive and didn’t wobble and it has been really good for our family. Our babies generally use it from around 6 months to 2 years old, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter (we’ve had some babies that HATED confinement with a passion and they got moved to a mattress – on the floor – earlier on).
- A Car Seat – we have a convertible one that stays in our car. I see so many moms carrying around their baby’s bucket seat and I still can’t understand it – we gave up on that when my first was a baby. We would take him into church in his car seat, and then he would wake up and not want to be in it, and we would be carrying him AND his car seat around to all of our meetings. It was ridiculous and heavy and cumbersome – so much worse than just carrying a baby – so we don’t do that anymore. So rather than invest in two car seats (a little one for the first 6 months to a year and a bigger one for ages 1-5) we just get a convertible one and leave it buckled in the car, and take the baby out of it when we go somewhere.
- A Carrier – I have found a good, comfortable baby carrier to be invaluable in my time with my newborns. I have tried several, and my ring sling (a homemade one that I bought used 12 years ago) is still my absolute favorite for newborns, no contest. It’s just so easy to get baby in and out, it’s the most beautiful shade of red so it makes me feel pretty whenever I wear it (which is quite an accomplishment in that freshly postpartum period), and it’s super comfortable for me and for baby. I don’t use it a lot at home, but when I go out, I use it all the time. It saves me so much trouble, because my hands can be free for whatever needs to be done, and I don’t have to carry a car seat around or push around a stroller. Baby is happiest right next to me anyway, and I also feel like she is safer/more protected there, where people are less likely to get in her face (because they’ll also be getting right in my face) and share germs, etc. There are so many kinds available – my one caution is to avoid the kind that have fabric between you and the baby. We had one of those with our first baby and he and I both hated it, it was just so uncomfortable. Ask around – you probably have friends/family with carriers, and you can try them on and see how you like them before investing in one, or you can figure out what you like and make one yourself.
- A Stroller (optional) – we have one, but it is mostly used for our older kids. It’s a basic umbrella stroller. If you are a runner, you might consider a good jogging stroller to be a necessity. I am not, so we do fine without it, and just use our stroller for the zoo or museum or places like that. It is handy, but if you have a good carrier I wouldn’t invest in a stroller at all until you really need it.
AND LAST BUT DEFINITELY NOT LEAST…
Most of all, baby needs YOU. That can be overwhelming in those early days when it seems all the baby wants to do is eat and poop and fall asleep, on repeat. But that just lasts such a short time, and the time you put in to nurture your baby, now and later, will pay dividends forever. Motherhood is a beautiful sacrifice. It takes all you have and are and makes you more and better, if you let it. Don’t be afraid to lose yourself in motherhood. You will never regret the time spent nurturing your babies. They need you, and you need them. So slow down and take the time to just BE with them for a while. It’s okay to let the world go by. None of that matters as much as the new life you hold in your arms, and you were made for this. You’ve got this, mama.