Preparing for your baby's arrival is exciting but can also be overwhelming. With so many options, new baby gear and whole sections of big box stores dedicated to baby care, it can be tricky figuring out what is worth buying and what you can do without.
To help you make the best decisions for your family, here are 10 must-haves plus 10 don’t-needs so you can shop smart and not break the bank.
10 must-haves when preparing for baby
1. Infant car seat
One of the most important items you’ll need is a baby car seat that fits your newborn. You can’t leave the hospital or birthing center without one!
As your baby grows, you need to look for a car seat that adjusts. Your most affordable option might be to purchase a combination or convertible car seat.
“There are convertible or 3-in-1 car seats that work for both infants and toddlers that transition from rear-facing to forward-facing,” said Jenny Pearson, RNC-OB, a childbirth educator at Banner Health in Mesa, AZ. “These are more economical and save you from having to buy two car seats.”
[Also read “Finding the Perfect Car Seat for Your Precious Cargo.”]
2. Diapers and diaper bag
A newborn baby will go through many diapers, especially during the first few weeks. It’s important to be ready with disposable diapers or cloth diapers, a changing pad and diaper wipes. Purchase a diaper bag (or something similar) to hold everything when you’re on the go.
Your baby will grow roughly two pounds a month, so you need to plan accordingly. Don’t overdo it with a bulk order of newborn diapers. They’ll quickly outgrow those.
To save money, sign up for a diaper subscription to save on diapers, wipes, formula and more.
3. Items for sleep
Unsafe sleep environments play a significant role in sleep-related deaths. This can be terrifying if you’re about to bring your baby home from the hospital.
To help ensure safe sleep, purchase a baby crib or bassinet, a firm mattress, and fitted crib sheets. Swaddles or sleep sacks can also be a nice-to-have in the beginning.
“Many parents start with a bassinet for the first few months before transitioning their baby to a crib,” Pearson said. “Your baby will be up quite a bit those first few weeks and months, so it’s good to have them close by.”
Check out these safe sleep practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics' latest guidelines.
You’ll want a stroller that you can use with an infant seat once your baby outgrows it. The most affordable option is to consider a convertible stroller, designed to be used from birth through the toddler years.
5. Baby carrier
You can use a baby carrier or wrap if your baby likes being held. Here are tips to find the best baby carrier options for you and your family.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has the following guidelines and recommendations on carriers and slings.
6. Feeding supplies
Whether you breastfeed and/or bottle feed, you’ll need to be prepared.
To keep your baby well-fed, you’ll need the following:
- A few 4-ounce baby bottles
- Support pillow or nursing pillow
- Burp cloths and bibs
- Breast milk bags
- Breast pump (for nursing parents)
- Nipple cream
- Bottle brush
7. Bath supplies
There is nothing like the smell of freshly bathed baby, and a good baby tub can make a world of difference—especially when your baby is itty bitty. Although a clean kitchen sink is still an option, it doesn’t provide your baby with the best support. Here are some baby bathtub recommendations from Babylist.com.
[Also read “Baby’s First Bath, Tips for Bathing a Newborn.”]
During those first few months, you may be surprised how much a baby needs to be changed – diapers and baby clothes. From spit-ups to blowouts, they can get pretty messy fast.
Aim to buy the following items:
- A couple of packs of snap-crotch bodysuits or onesies
- A week’s worth of sleepers
- A couple of sleep sacks or gowns
- Several rompers and shirt/bottom sets
- A week’s worth of socks to keep their feet warm
- Baby hangers
- A sunhat or cold-weather hat, depending on the time of year
9. First aid kit
Look for first aid kits made by the American Red Cross. Most of these include everything you’ll need to help care for the baby, including an infant toothbrush, baby nail clippers, baby brush or comb, medicine dropper, bulb syringe and baby thermometer.
10. Preparation classes
While not physical things, preparing for your baby and educating yourself on childbirth and baby care deserves a place on this checklist. From prenatal and parenting to infant CPR and car seat safety, there are a variety of classes to help prepare you for anything.
Check out these pregnancy and parenting classes available from Banner Health.
10 baby items you don’t really need
There are tons of cool, new and trendy baby products out there. There’s a reason why the global baby products market is expected to reach more than $352 billion in 2030!
The truth is you’ll need far less baby stuff than you think. Here are 10 things you can live without or postpone.
- Wipe warmer: They aren’t practical and are a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Baby food processor: It’s great if someone gifts you one, but a regular food processor is OK.
- Changing table: If space or money is tight, a changing pad works fine. Besides, changing on the floor is safest for making sure your baby doesn’t roll off.
- Crib bedding: Put your money toward a firm crib mattress, cute sheets and wall decorations and forgo expensive nursery bedding. Crib bumpers and thick blankets can contribute to suffocation and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Sleep positioners: Avoid sleep positioners to elevate your baby, as these can pose a suffocation risk for your baby.
- Secondhand crib: Avoid buying or using a secondhand crib. While generous and well-meaning, it may not be the best option for your baby’s safety. Many older cribs don’t comply with current safety standards.
- Highchair: If space is tight, you can hold off a bit (about six months) before purchasing a highchair. There are several safe alternatives out there as well that might be more up your alley.
- Special baby detergents: ‘Free and clear’ detergents work fine for your baby’s sensitive skin. You don’t need special baby detergent.
- Diaper disposal system: These can get a bit messy (and smelly!) Small disposable sacks are much cheaper and can go out to the trash in a jiffy.
- Booties and shoes: While it’s adorable to see a baby in mini-Chuck Taylors, they don’t need shoes until they start walking.
Whether you’re having your first child or your fourth, you will have many questions. Set up an appointment with your child’s pediatrician and your health care provider to make sure you’re prepared with everything you need post-birth.