Which baby essentials are truly essential? What baby gear can you live without? What’s nice but not necessary? What’s absolutely necessary? What’s not necessary at all?
Well, the answer can depend on you, your lifestyle, your budget and your baby. Brands and manufacturers know that. That’s why there’s so much to choose from.
Online baby gear sales alone are a $9 billion industry in the U.S., according to IBIS World, an industry market research firm.Options are a good thing BUT the choices can be overwhelming. But…maybe too much?
“There are so many products parents do not need for their baby before their babies are born,” says Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One.
A Stanford University trained pediatrician, Dr. Casares is a girl mom and pediatrician in Portland, Oregon who also runs ModernMommyDoc.
To help you buy/register for just what you need to feel prepared the world’s best job, BabyProductsMom spoke with Dr. Casares for her top 7 newborn must-haves—plus what not to buy. Check ‘em out!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Meaning, BPM gets a commission if you purchase through her links, at no cost to you. BPM only promotes certain products and services she believes to be of high quality and value that can be beneficial to you. Thank you for your support, which continues to make this blog possible.
1. Baby essentials: Wipes, wipes and more wipes
Wipes are the most underrated baby essentials. You’ll never ever run out of a need for wipes. “Your baby needs wipes from day one up until you stop changing her diapers at whatever age that may be,” Dr. Casares says. Look for wipes without added fragrances, such as Pampers Sensitive or Water Wipes. “This is an item that can be purchased online in bulk to potentially save a lot of money,” she says. The cheapest wipes are $.02 to $.04 cents per wipe, like these and these.
Don’t buy…more than one package of newborn diapers (the 120 count will do ya, probs)
“Many babies will start out with size newborn diapers and if they’re like my babies, they will grow into a size 1 within just a week or so,” Dr. Casares says. The upshot? “You’ll have a whole bunch of diapers you don’t need.” On average, babies will spend two weeks in newborn disposable diapers. Based on that generous estimate, you’re likely to need 195 newborn size diapers per baby.
But that may be way more than you’ll actually use. BabyProductsMom recommends buying one package in the newborn size, 120 count. If your baby weighs in at 10 pounds or more at birth, you can skip the newborn-size diapers altogether.
Bulk Diaper Buying Guide for Your Baby Essentials Planning
If you decide to us disposable diapers (still the most popular option), buying them in bulk makes good cents after the newborn stage.
To help you gauge the bulk disposable diaper quantity you’ll need, here’s diaper data that can help.
Your baby is likely to spend:*
- Two weeks in newborn disposable diapers
- 10 weeks in size 1 diapers
- 12 weeks in sizes 2, 3 and 4
- 24 weeks in size 5
- 48 weeks in size 6
Based on those estimates, here’s the number of diapers you’ll need per baby:*
- Newborn diapers: 195 (generous estimate)
- Size 2, 925
- Size 3, 750
- Size 4, 590
- Size 5, 1175
- Size 6, 2350
*This data is from DiaperDecisions.com, a website that now seems to be slightly defunct, but BPM nabbed the data previously. Thank you DiaperDecisions for doing this homework.
Don’t buy…a diaper wipe warmer
A wipe warmer definitely doesn’t fall into the baby essentials category. “Your baby doesn’t care whether the wipes are warm or not,” Dr. Casares says. (Still, if you must buy a wipe warmer, keep it right next to your diaper changing station so your wipes won’t have a chance to cool before they reach their destination.)
2. Baby essentials: Swaddle wraps
Labor and delivery nurses will show you how to wrap your baby with a hospital-issue swaddle blanket. “It’s all about practice and hands-on learning but if you don’t want to go to that trouble, a a swaddle wrap is no fuss, no muss,” Dr. Casares says. You’ll get it right every time. Swaddle wraps with Velcro are easy to use and foolproof for getting a secure fit around your baby.
Save the big, soft, silky muslin swaddle blankets for other uses, such as a car seat cover when you’re on the go or as a changing pad in a pinch when you’re out and about with your baby, Dr. Casares says.
How long to swaddle? “Babies can be swaddled up until about two months; we don’t want them to roll over and potentially suffocate themselves. So at that point, you want to transition to an arm’s free sleep sack,” Dr. Casares says.
3. Baby essentials: footed sleepers with zipper or magnetic closures
For middle of the night diaper changes, “there’s no time for fumbling around with snap buttons in the diaper area,” Dr. Casares says. That’s why Dr. Casares puts footed sleepers on the baby essentials list. She recommends footed sleepers that zip up from bottom to top or just have an inseam zipper at the bottom like this one or this one so all you have to do is unveil the lower part of your baby during middle of the night diaper changes.
“With a baby who you’re trying to get back to sleep, if you’re manipulating your baby for a significant amount of time, there’s more chance that a baby will get fussy and more awake. You have to do more soothing to get them back to sleep,” Dr. Casares says. But a sleeper with an inseam zipper is about ease and not having to fumble so much, she says.
BabyProductsMom is also a super fan of footed sleepers by Magnetic Me , which feature magnetic fasteners enclosed in the fabric.
4. Start with an infant car seat
An infant car seat is a major baby gear essential.
All in one car seats, which grow with your baby, allowing you to buy/use only one car seat from infancy until your baby is out of the car seat stage are popular now, but Dr. Casares favors starting with an infant car seat, which you’ll need before leaving the hospital.
Because of the cocoon environment an infant car seat offers, “I think there’s a huge benefit to having a bucket car seat in the very beginning,” she says.
Okay, next dilemma: Should you shop for a travel system–an infant car seat paired with a stroller–or just use an infant car seat paired with a stroller frame for now, which is a budget-friendly option?
Dr. Casares says to go with a travel system if you plan on taking some serious walks with your baby. “You’ll need something heavy duty,” she says. Otherwise, a stroller frame can get the job done and buy you time to research a stand-alone stroller, which you can use starting when your baby can sit up unassisted at around six months.
Confession: BabyProductsMom walked 2 miles daily with the same stroller frame and infant car seat with both babies. But yeah, a travel system would have been better.
5. Splurge on a double electric pump (or get a freebie from your insurance company)
If you’re planning on breastfeeding, Dr. Casares recommends using a double electric pump for speed and efficiency and having it all set up so it’s ready to go.
Even if you plan on being a stay at home mom and not pumping very much, “you might need a pump for help latching on in the beginning or to remove some of the milk from your breast to help your baby latch or to help with let down,” Dr. Casares says.
You might still need a double electric breast pump when you’re first feeding your baby. Its speed and efficiency can help increase your milk supply. Pumping can also help augment breast feeding. “When babies test below the 10% weight loss threshold after they’re first born, we’ll use pumping to augment breast feeding,” Dr. Casares.
There are lots of breast pump brands on the market; Dr. Casares recommends going with a major brand. “From a practicality standpoint, it’s easier to find replacement parts,” she says. Dr. Casares cites the time she had to pump at a baseball game. When her breast pump conked out, she simply ran across the street and bought replacement parts at a Walgreens.
Be sure to buy a new pump; never borrow one, even from your sister or your sister-like best friend. “Everyone should use their own breast pump, especially in this day and age where we’re wiping things down and sanitizing,” Dr. Casares says.
If you have health insurance, your insurance company will supply a free breast pump. (Here’s the free, no-hassle way to get a breast pump from your insurance company). “But you need to consider the options and see if it’s actually going to work for you,” Dr. Casares says.
Dr. Casares can personally vouch for the ease and convenience of the Medela Freestyle breast pump. “I would put on a Simple Wishes hands free pumping bra and I would set the pump up, sit in my car, just pump all the way to work, or pump right when I got there before I entered the building or sit at my computer and pump. I’m not a huge fan of multitasking for moms.
There’s a ton of studies showing that we’re just killing ourselves by multitasking over and over. But when it comes to pumping, multitasking is the name of the game, once you get going with it,” she says.
While you’re breast pump shopping, be sure to check out Medela’s newest arrival: Pump In Style with MaxFlow Technology. This redefined Medela pump features Medela’s MaxFlow technology, which generates vacuum with micro-vibrations for increase milk flow and optimal performance.
The Pump in Style with MaxFlow technology pump is a closed system, meaning milk can’t flow back into the tubing and then back into the pump itself. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s safe to borrow this pump from your sister or a best sister-like friend. Noooo. Like your tooth brush, a breast pump is a germ magnet. It’s meant for one person (unless it’s a hospital grade rental pump like the Medela Symphony pump, which is designed for more than one user).
So, get your own new breast pump. Don’t borrow a personal use pump or lend yours out. (Ick!)
6. Put a bassinet right next to your bed
For the safest sleep environment for your baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rooming in (but not bed sharing) with your baby for at least the first six months but ideally, up to one year in a bassinet, crib, portable crib or play yard that meets the latest safety standards (a crib without a drop-side, which hopefully are not in circulation anymore).
If you don’t have room in your bedroom for a full-size crib, “a bassinet is a really good option,” Dr. Casares says. Put the bassinet right next to your bed. Go ahead and feed your baby in bed, but return him/her to the bassinet when you’re done. If you have multiples, each should get his/her own bassinet.
Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes so you don’t fall asleep in bed with your baby while breastfeeding.
Don’t buy a Dockatot
“It is the non-breathable piece of fabric in the bassinet with your baby. If your baby rolls to the side, they could absolutely suffocate,” Dr. Casares says, explaining why the Dockatot or any of its knock-offs is a no-no.
Don’t buy or use the recalled Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper or any sort of incline sleeper either. They’re not selling them [Rock ‘n Play Sleeper] anymore, but they may turn up at garage and tag sales. If you used the Rock ‘n Play for one baby, don’t use it for your next baby.
What about the Snoo Smart Sleeper, which is being evaluated by the FDA for possible designation as a medical device? The Snoo Smart Sleeper is a moving sleeper bassinet that soothes babies with a constant rumbly sound and gentle rocking motion; it’s based on the idea that babies crave being back in the womb.
“I think the Snoo is a good alternative to consider if it financially makes sense for your family,” Dr. Casares says. (If it’s not in the budget, consider renting, to try before you buy to see if to see if it works for your baby.
“There are some babies, no matter what apparatus you put them in to try to get them to sleep, will not be good sleepers. It’s just in their nature and their temperament to not be good sleepers,” Dr. Casares says. For those babies, “sometimes you just have to wait for time to pass with that baby,” Dr. Casares says. But the Snoo can be the ultimate test.
If you’re thinking about a Snoo, consider renting in the beginning to see if your baby needs/likes the Snoo. Who knows? Your baby might be a good sleeper.
7. Put a breastfeeding pillow on your baby essentials list
If you’re planning to breastfeed, a nursing pillow is key among baby essentials because baby/boob positioning is really important when you’re first learning to breastfeed, Dr. Casares says. That’s what a breastfeeding pillow can do–help you make sure you have everything is in alignment with your body and your baby.
To get the job done, Dr. Casares recommends My Brest Friend nursing pillow or the Boppy Original nursing pillow. “One (My Brest Friend) provides a little more structure, one (Boppy) provides less structure,” Dr. Casares. Centsible advice: “A nursing pillow is something you could borrow from a friend if you sterilize the cover by washing it in hot water in the washing machine,” she says.
Don’t buy…a monitor to continuously track your baby’s micro movements, oxygen, heart rate, etc.
A baby monitor that measures your baby’s micro movements in the crib, breathing motion (respiration), body position, skin temperature, oxygen is not among Dr. Casare’s list of baby essentials. “I don’t recommend any of the monitors or sensors. They will just going to cause more anxiety,” Dr. Casares says.
There’s a reason the AAP recommends that babies sleep in the room with their parents for their first six to 12 months of life. “Nothing can replace a human listening for what’s happening with their baby,” Dr. Casares says.
“Sensor products may be made with all good intentions to keep your baby safe, but in the end, there can be false alarms when there’s not a problem. They will often cause more anxiety,” Dr. Casares says. The inside story: Monitoring can raise your level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, she says.
Over time, sensor products can also usurp your ability to naturally decipher what your baby’s noises mean, as in–Oh, when he does that, he’s just turning over. He’ll go right back to sleep. In other words, sensor products can interfere with your ability to learn on the job.
“Instead of reacting every single second, which is what an alarm will make you do, become more of a natural observer just by interacting with your baby. Not using sensor products allows you to get more confident as a parent,” Dr. Casares says.
A helpful newborn sleep tip: When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, wait a few seconds or even a minute and see what he/she does. Then, respond if you need to–or not. “Waiting instead of reacting immediately allows your baby to learn to self-soothe,” Dr. Casares says. Your baby may squirm around, then head back to sleep.
What about using a regular audio/video baby monitor with sight/sound like this one? Is that okay? Is that a baby essential?
“In the newborn period, it’s not something I would recommend for a parent. Outside the newborn period, there are parents who will use a monitor if they were going to go outside to take out the trash for a minute. But for for nighttime sleep, I wouldn’t recommend that parents use baby monitors,” Dr. Casares says.
The AAP doesn’t recommend any baby monitors, she adds. “Babies should be in the room with the parent. So, parents shouldn’t necessarily need a baby monitor. In the day time, if baby will be in a different room from you, when you’re doing the dishes or laundry or responding to email, then it’s understandable that you would have a baby monitor on for short periods of time,” she says.
In general, are most parents over monitoring? “Absolutely. We are 100% over monitoring,” Dr. Casares says.
Rather than relying on outside stimuli, approaching parenthood from an internal “I’ve got this” perspective is the basis of Dr. Casares’s book: The New Baby Blue Print.
“In general, we’re approaching parenthood from an ancient standpoint of parenthood can be really amazing, rather than the lesser-than mentality of: Am I doing it right? Is something bad going to happen to my baby? How can I keep from messing up?
“If we follow a few key steps to keep our baby safe that the AAP has identified and we focus more on observing our babies and understanding their cues and learning and becoming data collectors and observers about our babies, we’ll see parenthood as a process of becoming experts on our kids and that takes time,” Dr. Casares says.
“It’s all about mindfully watching what’s happening with our kids and responding instead of reacting.”
Recap–7 Pediatrician Recommended New Baby Essentials to Make Your Life Easier:
To become the expert parent that you are faster and more guidance on your baby’s first year, check out Dr. Casares’ video course: Taking Care of You and Your Newborn.
For more information on the baby essentials you’ll truly need and what you won’t for the amazing role of parenthood ahead, check out BabyProductsMom’s list of essential baby essentials.