I wanted to make sure I was prepared for everything with my first child, so I headed to Pinterest and printed out checklists of all of the things I “needed” for the new baby. I had a checklist for the hospital bag, a checklist for the nursery, a checklist for how many clothes I needed, a checklist for my baby registry, a checklist for my checklist…and the list goes on. If you’re into that sort of thing, check out my pregnancy board for some checklist pinspiration. Or save yourself the hassle and read on for the things you actually need if you are shopping on a budget.
You will realize half of the stuff you just can’t live without either won’t be used, or won’t be used for many months down the road.
After spending nine months slowly accumulating all of the “essentials”, I ended up with a packed closet of baby junk that went untouched (if ever) for a very long time. Fortunately, I am a thrifty momma and got the vast majority of our stuff second hand from friends or gently used from stores like Goodwill, but I still felt pressured into making sure I had ALL OF THE THINGS. Would you believe me if I said you can get all of your baby essentials for less than $300? It’s true!
Being pregnant is hard enough without being coerced by society and clever marketing ploys to invest your time and money into purchasing products you don’t need…just to be deemed a worthy parent in the eyes of your peers. Because Lord knows, if little cutey patootie doesn’t have on a pair of Nike’s in the womb, you must not have taken proper care of yourself and there is no way you could possibly care for another human being. But I digress…that is a rant on materialism that can wait for another day. At the end of the day, all your baby really needs is YOU.
We will start with the necessities…AKA what you need to have when you get home from the hospital until you can drive again.
Disclosure: This post (obviously) contains some affiliate links from Amazon, The Honest Company and Wal-Mart that I may earn a small commission for if you decide to make a purchase based on my recommendation. There is no additional cost to you for using these links, and in fact, I am sometimes able to provide discounts and special offers as a part of the affiliate program. I only recommend products that are actually useful and I have personally tried, and all contents of this post are my personal opinion.
I always advocate for getting things second hand or gently used if possible. But seriously, who wants used nursing bras? Some things you just need to buy fresh.
First of all, just in case you are the last human left on the planet without it, do yourself a favor and sign up for Amazon Prime. It will help you immensely, as long as you plan carefully and don’t make impulse purchases. You can get a 30-Day Free Trial if you click HERE, get what you need, and cancel it if you must (that was my initial plan, but I kept it). Also, if you decide to keep it, use this link and get an exclusive discount on your Prime membership.
1. Car Seat. You can’t take your baby home without one! My friend donated me her son’s Eddie Bauer infant car seat and stroller combo that they no longer used, and I highly recommend finding one second hand because they outgrow them very fast. Just make sure you check the expiration date, which varies by manufacturer (but it’s usually like 8 years or something crazy).
If you have to buy new, I strongly suggest the Evenflo line. They have very affordable options with extremely high safety ratings (Anyone read the news about Britax? Expensive doesn’t always mean better).
Also, my son got very hot and sweaty in his super cushioned fancy infant seat, so we “upgraded” to the Evenflo Tribute LX model at around 4 months old because it looked very basic. It was perfect, and we loved it so much, I even bought a second one for his dad’s truck and to use in an out of town wedding when we flew. It’s $50, but I got my second one open box for $35.
We also ditched the bulky car seat/stroller monstrosity in favor of a cheap little umbrella stroller that was SO much easier and extremely portable. If I had to purchase new, I would definitely get this Evenflo Round Trip Travel system because it is the best of both worlds…affordable and safe. The stroller is super light weight, so when it is time to ditch the infant seat you won’t have to upgrade the stroller too…It’s goes for $170 on Amazon new, but as of this post you can purchase it “open box” for $95. (I buy everything I can open box, and have never gotten anything other than a brand new product).
And here’s the seat we have used for the last 18 months that I mentioned earlier. Did I also mention it’s super easy to clean and wash? I recommend this right off the bat if you aren’t planning on getting the car seat/stroller setup. Just make sure you get some strap protectors (for any car seat) or wrap the straps with a cloth because they will irritate your baby’s delicate neck skin.
2. Diapers and Wipes. This is the one area I am so glad I stocked up on in advance, and if you splurge on anything, do it here. By the time my baby arrived, I had (3) giant boxes of size 1 and 2 diapers and (2) giant boxes of size 3 and 4. (When I say “giant box”, I am referring to those big packages with 150-220 diapers.) I also had accumulated over 100 packs of wipes (watch for those grocery store coupons and sales). I seriously made it almost a year without buying diapers. They were always just there…no frantic midnight runs to CVS with my baby swaddled in a dish cloth. Plus it saved me a lot of money in the long run and left extra room in my budget while on maternity leave. At the very least, stock up on size 1!
Amazon has a free 30-day trial on it’s family subscription which gives you 20% off diaper purchases, but make sure you shop around because their prices on diapers tend to fluctuate wildly for some reason.
My recommendations for diaper brands: Parent’s Choice from Wal-Mart, hands down. This is also my ONLY recommendation on wipes…JUST as good as any name brand. I also like Luvs diapers if I catch them on sale, but the scent is a turn off for some parents. I never had trouble with skin irritation or blow outs with either of these brands. I would also recommend Cuties diapers, but for some reason they are insanely expensive on Amazon now, and only occasionally make an appearance at an actual store. If you see them, snap them up.
Huggies, Pampers, and Up&Up all smelled like chemicals to me, and weren’t any better quality in my HONEST opinion. And don’t get me started on the boutique designer diapers…just NO.
OK I LIED! (I’m just bitter that they are out of my budget.)
So in every single sample bag or box I have received from any company, I have gotten a generous sample of diapers from The Honest Company. If you have the budget to get a fancy diaper, this is the one I recommend. These diapers are beautifully designed in a wide variety of patterns, and the artist in me is totally gay for them. They are also extremely soft, well made, AND chlorine/fragrance free if you have a baby with sensitive skin. The company is also owned by Jessica Alba, who is completely adorable and a generally good person. I loved the samples I got, but they were just a little out of my price range.
If you don’t believe me, try out this FREE trial diaper and wipe bundle from The Honest Company and see for yourself!
These diapers are extremely plush and well made. But seriously, how cute are those patterns? Use my affiliate link to get a discount!
Also, don’t forget diaper rash cream. Tried them all, and hand’s down Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (the red one) is the best. It takes care of the rash FAST so you don’t need to use nearly as much, plus it has a nice smell. Aquaphor comes in a close second.
3. Pack & Play. I was skeptical of the necessity of this at first, and almost didn’t get one…but let me tell you, they are everything. LITERALLY. This takes the place of the bassinet, rock n’ play, crib, changing table, and storage containers. It will save you so much space. By the way, YOU DON’T NEED A CRIB RIGHT NOW. Trust me, for the first few months (and maybe longer if you are like me) you are going to want to keep that baby close to you. It’s good for the baby, and it’s the best way for you to get some sleep. Pack & Plays are a great option to have a safe place for your baby to sleep close by because they are light and portable. I bought a crib with a changing table…neither has been touched. I spent so much time planning the “perfect nursery”, and we have only used it to play in.
This is the Graco model I got open box from Amazon (are you seeing a trend here?). I am using it for my second son now, so it’s durable. The “infant napper” is portable, which is really nice if you don’t have enough space in your bedroom for the whole Pack & Play but still want the baby to sleep near, or you live in a two story house like I do. You can also use all of the space underneath while the baby is small to store extras! This is only $130, and you can get it open box for less than $90. Think of all the money you are saving by not buying all of those other previously mentioned items! If I could go back, I would, but maybe I can save you from the same purchasing mistakes I made. They even have a cheaper model that still includes the changing table for around $60 open box here.
4. Clothes. I think this is a category most new parents spend much more than they need to in. Newborns wear newborn clothes for all of 5 minutes. PLEASE don’t waste your hard earned money on more than a few select NB articles. All of the clothes for both of my infants have been hand me downs or thrift store purchases, with the exception of one or two special items. Most newborns will actually fit into 0-3 month clothes just fine, so you can skip the NB sizes altogether. Both my 7lbs and 9lbs boys did.
Newborn sizes. I recommend having (3) onesies (short or long sleeved depending on the time of year), (3) pairs of neutral colored pants, a six pack of socks, and a pair of sleep and plays (aka zip up footie pajamas). **helpful hint: the newborn size pants will fit long past the newborn stage because baby legs are short and weird.
0-3 month sizes. I recommend having (5-10) onesies, (4-6) pairs of sleep and plays.
0-6 month sizes. This will be your most used purchase…I promise. Sleep sacks. AKA wearable blanket! Best thing ever. Some mom’s prefer swaddle blankets…but neither of my kids liked those and they are a PAIN when it’s 3AM and trying to change a crying baby. Have at least one of these sleep sacks on hand. I have two that are sleeveless for warmer weather, and the other two are long sleeved because I prefer my house to feel like arctic winter. I love this set because you get three for the same price as one of the fancy Halo blankets.
You will be spending most of these first weeks at home (hopefully), so one or two nice outfits for pictures is all you need. Otherwise, your baby will spend most of his time in a onesie and sleep slack (or swaddle blanket). I promise, you will thank me later.
5. Baby Bath Tub. This was a necessity for me only because I don’t have a sink big enough to bathe a baby in. And if you have a C-section like I did, you really won’t want to bend over the bath tub for a few weeks. I used it until my oldest son was 14 months, and am using it again with my youngest. Check outlet stores like Burlington for the best prices. You should be able to find one for less than $20.
6. Bottles. This is different for every baby and every mother, depending on if you nurse or use formula, so I am not even going to begin to tell you what will work for you. However, because of this, I encourage you to make SURE you get both the Amazon and Target baby registry free gifts, as well as the free baby box I mention later BECAUSE you will get bottle samples. I have gotten Playtex, Dr. Brown’s and Avent bottles in my freebies. It will give you a chance to try different brands. This is an area you do not want to stock up on in advance because you never know what your baby will take. My son HATED Avent, Dr. Brown’s, and Tomy Tipee teepee…whatever they are called.
I breast fed, and really didn’t use bottles at all anyway until he started daycare at four months. The old school Playtex Nurser bottles ended up being what worked for him, and the disposable drop-ins made it easy on the daycare ladies. You also won’t need nearly as many of these bottles because the drop in liners make them super easy to clean. This set will literally last you the entire bottle stage. Just buy more liners and new nipples as needed.
7. Nursing Supplies. Whether you breast feed or not, you will want to invest in some nursing pads. If you do plan on breast feeding, I recommend buying one big box of disposable ones for while you recover, and then these washable ones for when you actually feel like doing laundry again. The washable set I have ($12) costs around the same as one box of disposables (these are a MONEY PIT), and they are way more comfortable.
You will also want to invest in at least three COMFORTABLE nursing bras if you are planning to breast feed, six if you can afford it. I am on my second round with this set, and bought an additional 3-pack this pregnancy just for convenience.
**helpful hint: If you have health insurance, they will buy you a breast pump. Check with your provider to see what your options are.
8. Medical. There are just a couple of things I consider essentials here. The first being a thermometer. I cheaped out with my first son and bought one of those drug-store armpit thermometers…It was OK. Then last November during Black Friday, I made an impulse buy when I found one of those fancy infrared ear and forehead thermometers on sale. IT IS FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC. This is the one I have, but definitely wait until Black Friday or Prime Day when it goes on sale for like $15.
The second recommendation I have here is Saline Nasal Spray! My first son STAYED congested, and I would always try to use that little bulb from the hospital to suck the mucus out…pretty ineffective. My grandmother, a former nurse, suggested saline nose drops. They changed everything for him. The problem was the mucus was hard and dry, so trying to suction it out did nothing. The saline spray softened it, often producing a sneeze as well to naturally blow it all out! Disgustingly satisfying.
9. A Baby Registry. Hear me out. I know I just ranted about materialism earlier. But sometimes we want the extras. Since your friends and family are going to ask what you want ANYWAY, (especially if this is your first child), if you have your eye on something special, put THAT on the registry. Worst case scenario, no one buys what you really wanted. ..BUT when you have a registry with Amazon, you get a completion discount of 15% that can be used two times once your due date has passed! ** helpful hint: you can keep adding items AFTER you give birth that will still be eligible. The registry is free to make, PLUS it comes with a very nice free gift box. Way better than Target’s swag.
I have saved this baby registry completion discount with both pregnancies to buy my son’s Christmas presents in one order, and another order of a few special items I really wanted to have on the other. So what are you waiting for? Did I mention Amazon gives the best box of free stuff? Create an Amazon Baby Registry
10. A Baby Box. This is another freebie I didn’t find out about until my second child, but it’s kind of cool. ALL you do is go to their website, and take a short (free) parent education class, pass the quiz, and BOOM! Free baby box full of stuff. If you really want to go no frills and skip the bassinet, this is great because it gives you a portable option for the baby to sleep in, because yes, it even comes with a box sized mattress. My box was a lovely cream color with purple wildflowers and came stocked with the usual samples, plus a nice muslin swaddle blanket and size 3-6m organic onesie. You have nothing to lose! Check out The Baby Box Co.
Things that are nice to have, but not essential: baby book, baby carrier or ring sling, baby changing pads, diaper pail and refills, hooded baby towels, nasal aspirator, nursing pillow, Lanolin nipple cream (use the free samples you get until you figure out if you need it or not), a toy or two (we didn’t use any until almost 3 months), a couple of the larger muslin swaddle blankets because they make great car seat and nursing covers, diaper bag (just use a backpack, it’s way easier!)
To be honest though, I did upgrade to an official “diaper backpack” recently because I needed the extra organization with two children in diapers. I splurged ($23) on this one and LOVE it.
Completely useless items I wasted my money on: crib, crib mattress, crib mattress cover, two sets of crib sheets, changing table and accessories, wipe warmer, bottle warmer, baby swing, baby monitor, humidifier, pacifiers, hands free pumping bra, nursing cover (just use a blanket!).
And that’s all folks! Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!
Having your second child? Be sure to check out my post about Boobie Boxes to entertain your toddler while you are nursing.
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