Baby Essentials: The Only Items Baby Really Needs

Congratulations, you’ve got a baby on the way! While there’s nothing possibly more exciting, trying to figure out what baby actually needs can cause anxiety. With so many gadgets and new baby gear out there now, how do you know which items you will actually use?

As a parent, I can tell you that is SO easy (and fun!) to run around the store with a scan gun adding everything in sight to your registry. If there’s a product for it, then that means baby needs it, right? Wrong! I did that with my first kid. And then the next one came along. I instantly knew what I really needed and what I could definitely do without. And being on a budget, I knew I didn’t need everything that was top of the line. As long as it does its job well, then I’m cool with that. Feel the same way? Then you’ll appreciate this: The following baby essentials are all that you need, whether it’s your first kid or your fourth.

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Baby Essentials: The only Items Baby Really Needs

Let’s start with the basics. These are items that are must-haves:

    1. diaper bag – You’ll obviously need a  bag to keep all things baby in. But the truth is, you don’t need anything fancy. Any old tote will do. I personally need something that zips because when I’m in a rush I tend to knock everything over. I love the JJ Cole Metra Diaper Bag which is fabulous if you love lots of organizer pockets. It does come with a changing pad which is a bonus. It has several hidden card slots under the flap and plenty of room to store cash, keys, etc. It also comes with strap adapters to hook the bag onto the back of a stroller so you don’t have to put it underneath. (And we know what that means – more room to store bags while shopping).

2. changing pad – You may not need this if your diaper bag comes with one. Mine did, but I wanted one at home as well to keep there. My house has two levels: Upstairs we have the changing table for diaper changes and downstairs we don’t. I don’t know about you, but I’m not running up the stairs every time baby needs his butt changed. So I bought the Summer Infant Quickchange Portable Changing Pad to keep in the living room so that I can change him downstairs just as easily.

3. diapers – Whether you do cloth or disposable diapering, there’s no way around this one! If you aren’t sure which way you want to go yet, I’d suggest getting some of both and going from there. Although I do not have experience in the cloth diapering department, it is quite the initial investment to stock up on all that you need. However, it sounds like it might save money in the longrun for all the disposables that would need to be purchased. Some just like the convenience of disposables more. Either way, it’s a personal decision, so ask around for reviews and do what’s best for you and your baby! I personally love Target brand diapers (called Up & Up Diapers ). They are usually cheaper than other name brands. I have had no issues with them at all.

4. wipes – I get mine from Kroger – I find the price very reasonable and the quality is great. I get fragrance-free wipes (so they don’t have extra chemicals in them), but the quality is nice. One wipe is super thick and sturdy and is sometimes all you need!

5. pacifier – To be very honest with you, this has never felt a necessity to me because I couldn’t understand why they “needed” them. But I was always happy I had one on hand in the beginning. My babies never took to them well, but they did in the beginning for a very short time – long enough to fall asleep on a couple occasions where it was totally worth it. I’ve heard that most babies like the Philips AventBPA Free Soothie Pacifier so I did purchase that. And I also have the Natursutten BPA-Free Natural Rubber Pacifier since I heard it was good for breastfed babies (as it’s shaped more naturally and it’s larger so it touches the baby’s nose as a breast does when feeding). Every baby is different, so you might have to try different ones. It’s just nice to have one on hand in the beginning.

6. bottles – there’s no getting around this one either unless you exclusively breastfeed and are always with baby! Personally, I am a working mom, so baby gets pumped milk while I’m away. Every baby takes in different amounts of formula and/or breastmilk, so you may want a few different sizes. My friends that use formula tell me they like the bigger sized bottles usually (6-8 ounce bottles) because baby tends to eat more formula, but less frequently. My babies tended to eat less (breastmilk), but more often. So I only used 4 ounce bottles. If you aren’t sure which way you are feeding yet, you can always get a few of each and then wait to stock up until you know for sure. Both of my kids used Evenflo 3 Pack Classic Clear Bottles, which really are about as basic as it gets. I bought them because they were a good deal (and are BPA-free). But I also bought the Munchkin Latch BPA-Free Bottle for my son when he was first getting used to a bottles. It’s formulated to feel more like a breast, so he took this one easier at first. They are pricier but worth the money, and you can start out with one or two to see if baby likes it first.

7. pump – If you are formula feeding, then you get to skip this one! If not, then you will need a pump even if you are planning on being with baby always. There are times where something might come up and you will need to be away, or you will feel engorged and need to pump. I used a different pump a few years ago, but now I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump and I love it. You can get one through this link on Amazon, but check your insurance also because you might be able to get one for free!

8. pack and play – This is a great thing to have on hand because baby might need a place to sleep if he goes to grandma’s house. Or if you travel a lot, then you’ll definitely want one. Not only can you use it for baby to sleep in, but once he becomes mobile, you can stick him in it next to you with some toys while you’re catching up on house stuff! There are SO many out there, some with lots of bells and whistles. I just wanted something simple. The one I have is the Graco Pack ‘n Play On The Go Playard and it’s about as basic as it gets, but easy enough to assemble and put away, so I love it.

9. bassinet/co-sleeper – If you don’t want a full-blown crib in your room but would like baby to sleep nearby for the earliest months, then you may want a bassinet or a co-sleeper. I have to say, I absolutely LOVED my Arm’s Reach Euro Mini Arc Co-Sleeper Bedside Bassinet for both of my kids. It’s like a mini pack and play, except baby sleeps on a surface that is flush with your bed. It allows you to get as close as possible to co-sleeping without the worry of rolling on top of baby. The sides are mesh so that your baby can breathe fine if he shoves his nose against the side of it. It also attaches to your bed so you don’t have to worry about knocking it over. It has handy storage compartments for swaddlers, burp rags, etc also. My kids outgrew it when they were around 6-7 months, but that worked for me personally because that was the time I transitioned them into their own bedrooms.

10. crib sheets/bassinet sheets – You’ll obviously need some of these, but how many? You don’t need TOO many. I like to go by a rule of three – one on the crib (in use), one in the laundry (already dirty), and one in the drawer (ready at a moment’s notice!).

11. diaper cream – You never know when baby’s bum will need some attention – especially when they poop often – they’ll need it more than you think. I really like Motherlove Organic Diaper Rash and Thrush Relief. Why? Well for one, it’s organic. And I’m all about all natural ingredients! The jar is tiny, but I have never used a whole one on either kid! And I love it because it does double duty – it’s a diaper cream, but you can also use it on sore nipples for nursing. You don’t even have to wash it off when baby nurses because it’s totally safe!

12. baby wash/shampoo – I like to use one product for the baby’s bath. They don’t need a separate shampoo and a soap. I use Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Chamomile & Argan Oil Baby Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo on both the baby and my five year old as well. It’s all natural, smells wonderful, and gets the job done. There are tons of products out there for your choosing, but I urge you to research what’s in them before you douse baby in them. There have been many recent reports of baby products with harsh chemicals added. I like to avoid all that stuff and stick to this.

13. bibs – Many would argue that these are not necessary. Maybe they aren’t. But unless you like changing your kid’s outfit several times a day, then I would definitely recommend getting some of these. My little one dirties 3 bibs a day. I personally have about 15 and it’s probably more than I need, but I do not do laundry every day, so I want to be able to go a few days at a time without cleaning these.

14. formula – This is a given if you aren’t breastfeeding. Consult your doctor for which kind. I have no experience in this area, however, I would think it would be a good thing to have lots of stock in so that you don’t run out!

15. clothes – Onesies, pants, pajamas/sleepers, socks and hats are all great to have. And don’t be afraid to let baby wear his sleepers when you go out and about – it’s not like a grown-up wearing pajamas to a store. Baby can get away with it! With my first baby, I thought I’d put her in a dress and tights and shoes, the whole nine yards before we went anywhere. HA! Have you dressed a baby? Sometimes they hate it. They don’t need to be all decked out to go places all the time. They just need to be protected and comfortable. Comfortable = happy baby. Not sure how much to buy? Think about how often you plan on doing laundry. Baby will dirty more than one outfit a day usually (mine did). So 2-3 outfits a day, 2 spare sets for the diaper bag, and at least a week’s worth if you don’t plan on doing laundry that often.

16. crib and mattress– You can get away without one for awhile if baby is in a bassinet, but they sometimes grow out of them faster than you think. Check your height and weight restrictions on whatever you have, but a crib is a good thing to always have even before baby is here for that very reason. And you might want baby to sleep there from day 1 anyways, everyone is different.

17. night lights! – This is something small that people forget about! It’s not just great in the baby’s room, but I put one in the living room and in the hallway so that when I get up for late night feedings, I can see when I’m walking around and not disturb everyone else in the house. ALWAYS have extra bulbs on hand because you’ll be super annoyed when it suddenly goes out.

18. detergent – You do not need to buy baby-safe detergent to use only on baby clothes. Actually, you don’t need to buy detergent that’s marketed toward just babies at all. I like to use one detergent for everyone in my house so that I can wash whatever I want. My favorite for the value is Earth Friendly Products Ecos Liquid Laundry Detergent. You can get it in different scents or unscented. It’s all natural, so much less likely to irritate the skin than others with abrasive chemicals.

19. car seat – You’ll need at least one of these. You will not be allowed to leave the hospital without one, so you should buy this early and have it installed. Then you don’t have to worry about it if baby comes early. You’ll have to seek out the guidelines for the weight limit, but most babies start off in a pumpkin seat. The nice thing about these is that you can put baby in the seat before you take them to the car. If you have a car seat base, then all you have to do is click the seat into the base. You’ll never have to worry about securing the seatbelt (as long as it’s secured properly from the start). And if your family has more than one car, you can simply buy an extra base. It’s a lot less expensive than buying more than one seat. Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat is practically the same as what I have, it’s been great to us.

20. baby blankets – While you will not need a hundred of these, a few of them are super handy. You’ll want them for swaddling, burping, tucking baby in in the car seat for added warmth, and even thrown over the car seat if you’re getting baby out on a blustery day. A pack or two should do.

So there you have it, folks! These are my 20 must-have items for baby! I will be posting about some “nice-to-have” items soon and also things that baby does NOT need! So stay tuned! Are there any absolute must-haves that I left out that you can think of? Comment below!

Baby Essentials: The Only Items Baby Really Needs

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Baby Essentials: The Only Items Baby Really Needs



  • Vanessa

    Totally agree with your list! I went overboard with our first but with our second she barely got anything new! We didn’t bother buying as much because we knew we wouldn’t use them!

    • Jill C.

      Hi Vanessa! I know, right? It’s amazing how much we really don’t need! But there are so many cool baby gadgets and gizmos now that we believe we need it or that it will make our lives easier! Our second didn’t get much new stuff either, and he has to deal with using some pink items from big sis lol! At least we bought him some boy clothes! 😉 I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Ilka Elise

    You have a lot of helpful baby tips, need to save them all for when I get pregnant one day 🙂
    I guess when you’re pregnant it can be overwhelming what you really need and what not.
    Thank’s for sharing girl xxx

    • Jill C.

      Thank you so much, Ilka! It is VERY overwhelming at first because there are just so many baby items, and many of them are things that aren’t necessary. And sometimes things will work better for you and your baby that won’t necessarily work for others, but I feel like this is a pretty good “basic” list that would be helpful to any mom. Thanks so much for reading!

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