Must Have Items for Baby’s First Year: The Minimalist Edition

When I was pregnant with my first son, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of items recommended for babies. Swaddles and wipe warmers and bottles, oh my! Did I really need all of this stuff for my baby’s first year? I sat in front of my computer, fingers frozen over the mouse pad. I had no idea where to start. So, I started with my doctor. 

“What exactly do I need when I first bring my baby home?”

Her list was simple: something for baby to eat, somewhere for baby to sleep, something for baby to wear, diapers, and wipes. 

Her list was simple and practical, which is exactly my style. I don’t like excess. More things for me to clean or put away? Pass. And I appreciate efficiency. 

Now, with that in mind, I certainly registered for and used more than those few things during my baby’s first year. However, my doctor’s words helped me to narrow in on what exactly my son needed, and what items would be beneficial to him {and me!} as we navigated that first year of parenthood. We’re about to have baby #3, and we have yet to purchase anything new for our subsequent babies that I would deem essential. 

I present to you a list of Must Have Items for Baby’s First Year: the Minimalist Edition. I break each category down into: The Essentials {what you absolutely have to have}, The Helpful {what is nice and/or useful to have}, and The Overrated {what I received/purchased and felt was unnecessary}. 

baby's first year- pregnant woman shopping for baby gearSomething for Baby to Eat

Nursing/Bottle Feeding

The Essentials

Your Breast: Obviously, the boob is what’s essential here. However, a lactation consultant can be incredibly helpful in guiding a first time mom, or even mom of multiple children, in breastfeeding. Check to see if your hospital provides one or a list of consultants with whom to work. 

Nursing bras: Do yourself a favor and get several nursing bras. I go by the rule “one to wash, one to wear, and one to spare”. 

Nursing pads: Your breasts will leak. Try reusable or disposable nursing pads to save your shirts!

Breast Pump: While not technically essential {my mom likes to remind me that she didn’t have access to one}, breast pumps, either manual or electric, are crucial if you’re planning on exclusively using breast milk. Check with your insurance company to see if they cover a particular type. And consider your needs: are you going to be pumping a lot at work? On the go? There are several different types of pumps on the market. I used this one

Formula: There are so many different types of formula on the market. Talk to your pediatrician about what’s right for your child. Pro tip: some formula brands offer rewards programs that will send you free samples of their product to try out. Check out Similac and Enfamil to get started!

Bottles: You’ll need around 6-12 bottles/nipples to get started. Newborns typically use a 4 oz bottle, and then graduate to 8 oz bottles, as their nutritional needs grow. There are several brands and varieties of bottles. We used and loved these, but you might need to try out a few before you figure out what works for your baby. 

Bottle Brush: For those hard to clean crevices on bottles. We used this one.

The Helpful

Nipple Cream: I didn’t experience this, but nipple cream is helpful for those cracked and bleeding nipples.  

Nursing Cover: This one could graduate to essential, depending on your modesty comfort levels.

Bottle Dry Rack: We were gifted one, and I was so appreciative to have the extra space to set out the bottles to dry. 

Bottle Warmer: Single use items annoy me, so I resisted purchasing one at first. However, it was really nice to not have to boil water/worry about microwave heating times when my son was screaming at me. This one has temperature settings, heats quickly, and automatically shuts off when the bottle is ready. 

The Overrated

Nursing pillow: I think I’m in the minority here, but I did not find my nursing pillow to be helpful. It was cumbersome and annoying to arrange around me. I thought a regular/couch pillow worked better for supporting my baby while nursing. 

Bottle Sterilizer: This just takes up more space on the kitchen counter. Most dishwashers have a sterilizer setting. 

Solid Feeding

The Essentials

Highchair: You can choose from a wide variety of brands and types. Some are freestanding, some hook to the counter or connect to a chair. Whichever you choose, consider how often you will be cleaning it {spoiler: you’ll need to clean it A LOT}. I like this one: easy to clean, simple, and the tray is dishwasher safe. I also like and use the Bumbo seat. It’s great for feeding baby on the table or counter {with supervision}, is easy to clean, and is a great portable option for traveling or restaurants {it has straps to anchor it to the chair}. 

The Helpful

Snack Cups: These cups are great for on the go small snacks, like dry cereal, and they help to contain mess. 

Bibs: Go for this style. Trust me. And get 2-3 of them!

Sippy Cups: Good for when baby is ready for trying out water. We used these. They’re inexpensive and great for taking on the go.

Baby Spoons: My kids did not like baby food and didn’t attempt to feed themselves with other than their fingers until after they turned one. However, if you’re using baby food, rubber tipped or plastic baby spoons are easier on sensitive baby gums. 

The Overrated

Baby Food Maker: See above for my feelings on single use appliances. Use a blender or food processor. 

Somewhere for Baby to Sleep

The Essentials

Bassinet/Pack n’ Play: If baby is sleeping in your room at first, a bassinet takes up less space and is often able to be carried from room to room. I used a bassinet/changing table/pack n’ play combo, and I cannot recommend it enough {I love a good multi-function item}. The model we have is no longer made, but this is a similar version in the same brand. 

Crib: You could also forgo the bassinet and immediately start with a crib. I recommend one that can eventually be transformed into a toddler bed. We used this one. Be sure to purchase 2-3 fitted crib sheets and mattress covers for those inevitable blowouts. 

Swaddle: Yes, I’m putting this in the essentials. Not only does it make baby feel comfy cozy like they’re still in your belly, but it’s an extra layer of warmth, without using a blanket or being too hot. I will only ever recommend this brand right here. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT get the Velcro kind. There’s nothing worse than trying to ninja stealth your way through a nighttime diaper change, and the riiiiiiipp of the Velcro straps jolts your baby out of their peaceful slumber. When our kids outgrow the SwaddleMe Pod, we use this wearable blanket.

The Helpful

Sound Machine: I was firmly in the “sound machines are overrated” camp, until my second child refused to sleep without one. There are several different varieties. Someone gifted us this one. It’s small and portable, cuts off after either 15 or 30 minutes, and can be volume adjusted. 

Baby Monitor: I put this as helpful, rather than essential, because it totally depends on your environment. If you live in a small house/apartment, you may feel comfortable listening for baby without one. We use this audio monitor, and it works great, even after 5 years. There are also video monitors and monitors you can sync to your phone.

The Overrated

Bed Extras: Don’t bother registering for or buying the cute crib bedding {like bumpers, quilts, and pillows}, mobiles, stuffed animals, or tons of blankets. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s not safe for them to have anything in their crib anyway, AND they really don’t need them. My 1.5 year old still sleeps in an empty crib without any issues. Save yourself the money and future dusting/washing efforts. 

Something for Baby to Wear

The Essentials

The amounts listed are recommended for each size.

Onesies: {7-10} Also known as bodysuits, these are good for everyday wear, either by themselves or with a pair of shorts/pants. They are also good for sleeping for those hot Houston summer nights. 

Pajamas/Sleepers: {7-10) Mamas, no matter how cute the pajamas are, do NOT get the ones with buttons or snaps. They’re just annoying, especially in the middle of the night. Zippers. Always go with zippers, especially the dual ones.

Shorts/Pants: {7-10} Go for the stretchy elastic variety that accommodate your growing little one.

Outer layers: Calculate what age your child will be in the winter. Buy/register for ONE jacket in that size. Then, go for a thin sweatshirt hoodie for layering in the fall/spring {purchase size according}. That’s really all the winter weather gear you need in Houston. If you’re traveling to a cold weather place, save yourself the money and try a local mom’s group to see if you can borrow someone’s winter gear.

Swim Suit/Rash Guard: A Houston summer essential. If you have regular access to a pool, I’d recommend 2-3 of them. Babies do not like being put into a wet swim suit. 

The Helpful

Holiday Outfits: I’m not a dressy woman, and I don’t typically dress up my kids. That said, I did purchase a couple of outfits I felt were appropriate for Christmas and Easter Mass. If we did have an extra event to go to, it was nice to have these outfits on hand.  

The Overrated

Hats: I think I’m in the minority for this one too. My kids hated hats, and I didn’t expend the energy to force them to wear them. If we were in the sun, I put extra sunscreen on them. If it was cold, I bundled them in my carrier or a blanket. 

Socks: Until they can walk, I see no purpose in socks for babies. They end up falling off or getting lost in the laundry. 

Shoes: Ditto. Until they can walk, my kids don’t wear shoes. They’re adorable, but expensive and unnecessary. The exception, obviously is if your child is walking before one year. In which case, I recommend these shoes. They form to your child’s feet, so it’s like walking barefoot. 

Diapers/Wipes

The Essentials

Diapers: We use disposables. Huggies is the best brand. I will not be taking questions at this time. 

You’ll likely get a ton of newborn diapers at your shower. Please do yourself a favor and exchange most of these for the next couple of sizes up. Your baby will not be in the newborn size for long, or they may even skip right to size 1. 

{Also, I have no experience with cloth diapers, but several of my friends use and love this brand. If I were going to use them, I’d follow this method for handling the extra laundry.}

Wipes: Again, Huggies. They’re just better. 

Diaper Rash Cream: At some point, your baby will have a red butt. Make sure to have some on hand. We use and love Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, but unless your baby has sensitive skin, almost any brand will work. 

The Helpful

Changing table: Babies can be changed literally on any surface. Just throw a changing mat or towel down, and you’re good to go. That said, if you are going to buy one, go for multi-function. Try a pack n’ play with a changing table overlay, or a dresser with a changing pad on top. 

Diaper Bag: Go for the backpack style. Trust me, when you’re trying to carry your baby on your hip, that cute over-the-shoulder diaper bag is just going to be in the way. {Though truthfully, at this point, we just throw diapers in any available backpack and call it a day. But it’s nice to have designated compartments, especially if you’re carting bottles or snacks around.}

The Overrated

Diaper Genie: It’s just a fancy trash can. Buy a trash can with a lid and some scented garbage bags. 

Wipes Warmer: If your baby is used to warm wipes at home, diaper changes outside of the house will be extremely unpleasant- for them and for you. Sometimes in life, your butt just has to be cold.

Miscellaneous Items for Baby’s First Year

Below are the items that didn’t fall into the above categories. These aren’t necessities, per se, but they are items that I found especially helpful during that first year. 

Car Seat: This is the only item in this section that is an essential. As in, you need one to leave the hospital. Learn more about choosing a car seat here

Baby Carrier: I’m a fan of baby wearing, so I have both this ring sling and this carrier. Highly recommend for many baby snuggles and smelling the top of your baby’s head. 

Stroller: Since I opted for mostly baby wearing, I forwent the popular travel system. I bought one jogging stroller {good for all terrains} and one umbrella stroller, for traveling. I have almost exclusively used the jogging stroller, including for traveling. Pro tip: check out this stroller group on Facebook, your neighborhood groups, or your local moms group. I found my jogging stroller for over 50% off, and it is still in amazing condition. 

Baby Bouncer: Good for placing baby in a safe spot while you take a shower or eat a hot meal. This one has a vibration setting, which helps soothe baby to sleep.

Jumper: We placed this near our kitchen, so our babies could jump and still see me while I cook. I recommend playing Jump Around by House of Pain whenever your baby is in it for extra entertainment. 

Pack n’ Play: I mentioned above that we purchased and love a combo bassinet/changing table/pack n’ play. However, we also have a smaller pack n’ play that we use exclusively for traveling/grandparents houses. 

This is my list of must haves for baby’s first year. Mamas, what other essentials would you recommend?


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Rebecca S. is a born and raised Houstonian; she grew up in Katy, graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston {go Coogs!}, and made a home in West Houston with her native Houstonian husband. She quickly realized that the chaotic lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for her and soon found her calling in education. She taught while earning her masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Currently, she is staying home with her son, Thomas {2016} and daughter Charlie {2020}. In her free time, she loves to read, write, run, and roam the world. While her roots are firmly planted in H-town, she takes every available opportunity to go on an adventure and explore historic cities, hike and run new trails, and, of course, try beers from every country.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great list from a momma who likes to keep it minimal! I just want to add on here: cloth diapers as an option. We use Esembly. It’s a whole system. It’s crazy easy and saves so much money! Only 2 sizes to buy and you can reuse for another baby and sell back to the company when done!

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