Material things are just things… for the most part. But in the case of your baby, their “stuff” is intertwined with their health and wellness. Everything that you utilize in baby’s daily routine impacts their wellbeing and development in some way, shape or form. Your approach to sourcing and purchasing your baby’s necessities can impact your own wellness, too. The process can either be stressful and daunting, causing a financial burden on your family, or it can be fun, exciting, and simple.
When I was pregnant, I felt a little overwhelmed by the task of shopping for my baby. With all the choices and products out there being aggressively marketed by a million different companies, it was hard (especially as a first-time parent), to figure out what I would really need. Looking back on the first few months, I can now safely say that I made solid decisions regarding baby items. I didn’t waste too much money, I didn’t get too much or too little, and most of what I purchased turned out to be useful and nice quality.
This is not just about what you need for your baby, but what you *don’t* need. Too much stuff or focus on material things can cause stress. The wrong items might be toxic or dangerous. The elaborate, fancy stuff might be a waste of money. My philosophy is this: purchase or source the minimal essentials at high quality. Like all other material goods, less clutter makes a nicer environment for all. When it comes to babies, you need a lot less than the corporate world would like you to think.
Your lifestyle and preferences could be very similar or very different from mine, which might impact whether or not my suggestions make any sense or will be useful to you. Please remember that this is how *I* went about things. It worked well for me, so I’m sharing it with you in hopes that it is helpful. My approach is definitely not the best way for everyone.
FIRST, HERE’S MY APPROACH TO FIGURING OUT BABY NEEDS
DO YOUR RESEARCH - Don’t just go into the store and start throwing things into your cart. Before you purchase anything for your baby, especially big ticket items, read product reviews online. There are endless resources for this. All individual products are reviewed on the websites that sell them. There are dozens of parent blogs, magazines, and youtube channels dedicated to this topic. More expensive does not necessarily mean higher quality. At the same time, the cheapest items are often cheap for a reason and might end up being a waste of money. Strike a balance.
Remember that THERE ARE MANY OPTIONS FOR A LIMITED BUDGET - Don’t be afraid to seek second hand items. Even if you are not on a limited budget, second hand sourcing is an excellent way to be environmentally friendly as you are utilizing a perfectly good item that might otherwise go in the trash. I actually didn’t learn about any of these great second hand sources until we had already bought everything we needed, but I have since found out that there are plenty of places where you can find gently used, high quality baby goods for a fraction of the price. This article talks all about it: https://www.babycenter.com/0_the-6-best-sites-and-apps-for-used-baby-gear_10415529.bc
SEEK ADVICE FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS WITH SIMILAR LIFESTYLES - Every parent does things differently. Your best bet is to ask advice from friends or family who do about the same amount of travel and outings as you do, and/or who run their home in similar ways. Some people are happy with handing their baby an iPad as early as possible. Others will do anything to keep an iPad out of their baby’s hands for as long as possible. Parenting styles are wildly different. Here’s a great example: while shopping for a stroller and carseat, I noticed that many are sold as travel systems (the carseat can be removed from the base and inserted directly into the stroller without taking baby out). I wondered if this was necessary. My sister advised us that she and her husband found that option to be really important because they live in frigid North Dakota weather and would not want to have to take their baby out of their blankies going in and out of the house every single day. I realized that since we live in Phoenix where it is warm, we wouldn’t have that same issue -- we’d be fine taking our baby out of the carseat any time of year without her being super bundled. We also knew that we would not be keeping our baby in the carseat for naps as some parents do. So, we got a totally separate type of stroller and carseat situation and it worked out just fine for us.
BUY AS FEW ITEMS AS POSSIBLE - Visualize the items that your grandparents, great grandparents, or even ancestors would have really “needed” for child rearing. I guarantee you won’t see a tipi full of clutter. In reality, your baby needs far fewer things than you probably think. A few blankets, clothing, food, some type of diaper, and your arms to carry them are the bare necessities. If you drive, a carseat is a safety requirement. The rest are conveniences. There are a few big ticket items that I considered buying and now am glad I didn’t, because I would never have used them, such as a pack-n-play and a bassinet.
A NURSERY IS NOT A “NEED” - I love seeing beautiful photos o fbaby nurseries online - a whole special room dedicated to their infant. It’s cute, but remember that it doesn’t necessarily make sense. The concept of a nursery at all is a very specific lifestyle choice that doesn’t vibe with my parenting style at all. A nursery is a separate area for your baby and all of their things. My philosophy is to keep baby as close as possible, with all of their things seamlessly integrated with mine and the rest of the household. Instead of a nursery, we dedicated a little “baby corner” in our room, where we kept her changing table, clothing, and bathing items. We never bought a crib because we practiced safe co-sleeping. I would definitely do the same thing with another baby next time around.
WHEN IN DOUBT, WAIT IT OUT - There are some items that you know your baby will not need immediately, and you might be questioning whether you’ll eventually need it at all. A part of you will want to buy it to be prepared, “just incase,” but I urge you to resist the temptation. If your baby doesn’t need the item immediately, it can wait, and you may in fact never end up needing it. If you wait it out, you will save yourself a lot of money.
NEXT, HERE ARE EXAMPLES OF HOW I WENT ABOUT CHOOSING MY BABY’S ESSENTIAL ITEMS, DIVIDED INTO CATEGORIES
Feeding - Breastmilk. Cost: $0.
Diapering - When it comes to diapers, I considered a few things. I did not want harsh chemicals on my baby’s sensitive skin, and I did not want to use anything made of plastic, like most of the mainstream brands. I considered using G-diapers or other cloth diapering systems. My midwife pointed out to me that since we live in the desert where water is in short supply, it’s just as environmentally friendly (if not more) to use biodegradable disposable diapers to cut down on loads of laundry. I was more than happy to have an excuse to not use cloth diapers, because they are a lot more work, especially for somebody like me whose baby poops a thousand times a day. More power to you if you go that route, though. At this point I have probably tried every single imaginable brand of diaper out there -- even the standard Huggies and Pampers, because I travel a lot and sometimes that’s the only choice. All in all, I haven’t actually noticed any stand-outs in terms of quality. My favorite diapers are Honest brand, mostly because of the cute designs if I’m honest. As far as wipes, we have learned the hard way that most brands contain chemicals that can cause stickiness and diaper rash. The only wipes I use on Alo are Water Wipes -- they are definitely the least harsh, and I love that they are unscented.
Carrying - When she still fit it, I absolutely loved carrying my baby in her wrap. I chose one by Solly Baby because I liked their color options and simplicity of design. When my daughter grew out of the wrap, I transitioned to a Tula baby carrier. I also got a ton of use out of that while she still fit in it. I absolutely loved carrying my baby around on walks, on errands, or just around the house, and she loved it too. If she still fit, we would definitely still be using those items.
Car seat - We decided that a car seat is one item that is worth splurging on, because often the more expensive seats are better quality. We also knew that we would be using it very often and wanted it to be comfortable and last long. We went with the Maxi Cosi Pria 70, which fits babies size 8 - 70 pounds. We took a gamble knowing that our baby might not be born at 8 pounds, but based on our family history (both Thosh and I were over 9 pounds at birth as are many babies in our family), we figured she would fit right away, and she did. After a few months, we took the newborn insert out of that carseat and she still fits in it. It looks nice, it’s sturdy, and it’s comfortable. We also ended up buying a cheap, lightweight car seat for travel, which has also been a good investment.
Stroller - Our lifestyle is minimal, travel-heavy, and active. Our first stroller was the Mountain Buggy Nano, which gets great ratings, is very compact, and has a sleek look (we love all black). When baby was tiny, we used the newborn cocoon we purchased with it. It was so cute. She still loves this stroller because she can hang her legs over the side. It is very lightweight but it is not cheap or rickety. However, the small wheels make it a little difficult to maneuver around rough ground, like grass and gravel, so we ended up buying another sturdier stroller with larger wheels. Again, we were looking for something functional but also nice looking with a simple design. We found the City Mini by Baby Jogger and we love it. I especially like using this stroller when I am alone with Alo because I can fold it up in one simple motion with one hand, which is key during airport security.
Clothing - A few people gave me a great piece of advice: do *not* buy any newborn size baby clothing. First of all, the newborn size is so teeny tiny that some babies never even fit into them (that was the case for Alo). The next size up, 0-3 months, leaves more room for growth. But remember that many people who give you gifts will give you size 0-3 months, so if you want to buy your baby clothes right away, you might want to start at size 6 months. Believe me, they grow into and out of it faster than you can imagine. Another tip: blowouts happen. They just do. If your baby is breastfed, they will leave massive bright yellow poop stains on anything you put them in, so don’t be heartbroken when it happens. Finally, baby clothing is one of those things that is sometimes worth spending a little extra on for the higher quality items, especially when they are super small and difficult to dress and undress because they are so delicate and squirmy at the same time. I love onesies from Kickee Pants and MilkBarn because they are extremely cute but also super stretchy, soft, and easy to get on-and-off. I also liked the muslin clothing from Aden + Anais because they soak up wetness and keep baby at a nice neutral temperature, just like a muslin blankie. I didn’t end up using baby mittens or hats very often because they wouldn’t stay on anyway, but some people use those items every day. In any case, you will be doing a lot of laundry the first few months, so get used to that idea and be sure to buy a gentle, unscented laundry soap.
Toys - Babies generally can’t see very well for the first few weeks, and they can’t hold things until about 3 or 4 months, so the short answer is that you do not need toys for your newborn baby, especially right away. By the time they do start expressing interest in playtime, they are often just as happy with a spatula or a half-filled water bottle than anything else. Toys are cute, but not a necessity. My favorite toy of Alo’s is her ledger art horse from the B. Yellowtail collection at Crate & Barrel. If there’s any entertainment item I would recommend right away, it’s books. Start these as early as possible. Alo loves board books and has been able to focus on them and enjoy them since I started them with her at 5 months. Music is also more important than toys for babies. Use your voice and instruments to entertain your little one. Overstimulation through electronics is not necessarily a good thing.
Blankies - If I had to choose one single item that I have used for Alo more than anything, it would be her muslin swaddle blankets. They are kind of expensive but totally worth it. I use them to swaddle, for nursing covers, to wipe up a mess in an emergency, for a little warmth, for a stroller cover, as a lightweight sun shield over the carseat or on the car windows, and pretty much anything else. They are breathable, soft, and very cute. Other blankets are useful too. When Alo was in my tummy I sewed a few blankies for her by hand, which was really fun and relaxing, and I really loved picking out the fabric. A few people gifted us some really nice wool baby blankets which have been useful for warm weather and playtime on the floor.
Diaper bag - FYI, (because I was confused about this at first), there really is no difference between a diaper bag and any other kind of bag, so if you have a tote or backpack that you already use and like, keep using it. Sometimes the diaper bags come with extra pockets and a changing mat, but there are other methods. I always used my own backpack or tote and never actually bought a diaper bag. You might consider keeping yours gender neutral so that your partner or husband feels comfortable carrying it around (trust me, you will want your partner to carry things for you). I kept the inside of my bag organized by using several pouches and travel storage thinggies (for lack of a better term) from Herschel, because I love the look, the color options, and the functionality of them. I used a leather changing mat by Gathre which I really liked - slim, sleek, and could be folded up small to fit anywhere.
Products - Bathing and hygiene items are a personal choice, but I usually go with unscented, natural-as-possible items with no harsh ingredients. As far as a tub, You can find little baby bathtubs, but I usually just take a bath with my daughter because it feels safer holding her in my lap. We also love to give her a sink bath (bathroom sink when she was teeny tiny, kitchen sink now). The smaller area of a sink feels safer, and it’s also nice to not have to awkwardly lean over the big bathtub.
Everything else - Other items that I haven’t mentioned yet that we have used a lot include the following:
BASKETS. We bought all of our baskets for odds-and-ends from Native artists and artisans rather than purchasing the cheap manufactured styles from big box stores.
CHANGING TABLE and changing pad. Not a “need,” but it has been really useful for storage, organization, and of course, diaper changing.
CRADLEBOARD - This is a culturally specific item that was very special to us. Alo loved to take long naps in her cradleboard as a newborn baby.
CLOSET ORGANIZERS - Since Alo shares a closet with me, I bought special organizers and hangers to keep her things neat.
HUMIDIFIER - If you live in a dry place like we do, a cool mist humidifier is good to have around.
DOCK-A-TOT - This thing was BEYOND helpful for us. It allows for safe co-sleeping and comfortable napping. I would absolutely recommend this item to anybody.
Moccasins. We were gifted several beautiful pairs. Consider ordering these from a Native artist rather than purchasing a mass-produced pair from a store.
I just want to add that this post has not been sponsored in any way shape or form by any brands or companies that I mentioned above. I’m offering honest advice! Hopefully it was useful to some of you. Remember - keep it MINIMAL!