When you're expecting a wee one, everyone and their mother has their own list of things they believe you need to buy before baby arrives. In my opinion, most of those lists are too long and full of unnecessary things that will only stress you out and make you super poor. I firmly believe that babies, especially of the newborn variety, need so very little. It's also a common myth that you need to have EVERYTHING that a baby might need for the next five years of it's life before she arrives. Not so, my friends. Especially when you live in a city where space is an issue. There is no reason why you can't purchase items as you go, as you discard the items you no longer need.
So here is MY list of what I think are the basic essentials that you need before baby comes. No clothes on this list, it only has things that qualify as "gear." Note the lack of swings, cribs, bouncy chairs, and other accessories that many people view as "essential." They may make your life easier, but you do not HAVE to have these things to keep your baby alive. Ok, here we go!
3-6 are more than enough. You can use them for actual swaddling, or to lay on the ground during tummy time, playing peek-a-boo, or to cover yourself while nursing if you feel so inclined!
2. Moses Basket
I understand the practicality of a bassinet or co-sleeper, but especially when space is a commodity your newborn needs nothing more than a sweet basket with some gentle padding inside. They don't need a crib until at least 4 months. Don't sweat that quite yet.
My personal preference will always swing towards lightweight strollers, as opposed to bulkier, tricked out strollers. Other than a reclining seat so baby can nap comfortably, a stroller needs little else. You can always buy a cup holder to clip to it, it doesn't need all the fancy gadgets. And let me be the first to say, HOLY SHIT STROLLERS ARE SO EXPENSIVE THIS IS BULLSHIT. Find the kind you like, and buy it used, y'all. This is insane.
4. Diaper Bag
Which brings me to my preferred method of diaper bag, a backpack. Aside from the fact that a majority of diaper bags are absolutely hideous, when you have a backpack your arms are free for baby carrying and stroller pushing, and you don't need to worry about where you will hang it. I'm loving this one as well.
5. Baby Wipes
These are my favorite brand. I love them because they are eco-friendly, made only of water and fruit extract. You can also use them to wipe your baby's face and hands and not worry about any creepy chemicals.
You're gonna need them even if you're planning on nursing. I love the Life Factory glass bottles and these BPA-free plastic bottles.
Everyone has their own opinion on what sling or carrier works best for them, and the best advice I can give you if you are truly on the fence is to try them out yourself to see what is comfortable. But I can recommend my favorites. The Baby K'tan is great for when they're teeny tiny. It snuggles your baby close to your body, is super soft and cozy, and feels more secure to me than other types of wraps. In terms of a carrier, I prefer the Ergo. I find that it distributes weight more evenly on your hips, so your back doesn't get too sore after carrying the baby for a while. It also adjusts really well as your baby gets big so it lasts a long time. I would do a Baby K'tan until the baby is 4-6 months old, depending on how big the baby is, and then switch to the Ergo.
There are tons of fancy diaper rash creams out there, but you really don't need anything more than some good old fashioned coconut oil or Aquaphor. They're super cheap and last for a really long time. You can also use them for bits of dry skin anywhere your baby might have it. Lots of babies get dry, red cheeks while they are teething and coconut oil, aquaphor, or even Egyptian Magic are all really good for soothing them. (Side tip: Plop some Egyptian Magic on your feet if they're dry and scaly and they'll be smooth as a baby's bottom in no time!)
9. Car Seat
If you live in New York City and don't drive, then my recommendation would be to borrow a car seat or buy a super cheap one from Craigslist for the taxi ride home from the hospital. No use in purchasing a brand new fancy one that you will rarely use. Babies and small children can ride in your arms in cabs legally, but to leave the hospital you must have a car seat. If you are looking to get a new one for your own car, this is a great option, and be aware that you'll need to purchase a base for it as well. Make sure you have it installed in your car at a fire station or a hospital!
I promise your baby doesn't need more clothing storage than one dresser. Even better if you can use the top of it as a changing table! Throw a sheep skin or a folded blanket on top of it and voila! This is a definitely something you can buy used on Craigslist or get a hand-me-down from a friend. They're pretty easy to clean and paint so you can make it your own!
11. Sheep Skin
My current babes have their own sheepies and I've totally fallen in love with the idea of using one instead of a foam top for a changing table. You don't have to worry about any weird chemicals in the foam and they are so easily washed. You can also throw them on the ground for tummy time, or in the bassinet or Moses basket for extra padding. And they look very sweet. I promise it's not creepy.
i have a confession to make. I will do just about anything for my babes, but I will not cut their fingernails. It terrifies me! I'll happily file them when they're nice and soft after a bath, but I can't bear the thought of accidentally clipping their little fingers. I used to babysit a 6 year old whose parents specifically asked me to clip his nails once a week, and it was seriously traumatizing. He was big enough that I never really worried about cutting him, but it was still so nerve-wracking! Admittedly, I didn't do a great job.
You'll definitely want this on hand before a problem ever arises. The forehead ones are popular right now, but I prefer the ear ones. I just find I get a more accurate reading. Even with a wiggly head!
14. Baby Detergent
My mom still keeps Dreft in her laundry room for when my little cousins come visit, and the scent is so nostalgic for me! There are lots of really nice options out there that are super gentle for babies and are affordable. The Honest Company is a great go-to for baby-safe cleaning products, as well as Seventh Generation.
15. Burp Cloths
Burp cloths were something I always figured were superfluous until I started taking care of infants. Oh my god, they spit up and barf so much. It's so gnarly. When I am taking care of teeny tinies I know I'm going to be going home smelling distinctly of regurgitated breast milk. I'm used to it by now. Have burp cloths on hand to throw over your shoulder when burping them. Tuck one under their chins when they are having a bottle. And keep them close for their general projectile puking needs.
You really don't need more than one soft, cotton baby towel. You can get a crazy cute one, or a plain white one like this, it's not like the baby cares! Wash cloths are great for when you're soaping up your sweet little babes in the tub. They aren't really a MUST HAVE but they make your life easier and don't really take up much more room. 3 or 4 are more than enough.
You really don't need to be using soap on your infant until they are about two months old, and even then you don't really need to use it every day. You want to make sure their skin gets a chance to develop natural oils so they don't get too dry. Burt's Bees is great too!
19. Noise Machine
Some people may think this is unnecessary, but it really should be at the top of the list. It has a Pavlovian effect on babies so when they hear it they start to get sleepy. They also fall asleep easier on airplanes because they have that sleep association with white noise. And the best part is it blocks out sound in the rest of the house so you can go about with your life when the baby goes to sleep and not worry about having to sit perfectly still in silence so you don't wake her up. There's nothing more infuriating than a neighbor's dog barking and waking your baby up early from a nap. This is the machine my babes have used for years, both in NYC and Los Angeles, and it's worth every penny.
If you go with disposables, have a couple weeks worth of newborn sized diapers ready to go before the baby arrives. That said, don't stock up too much because most likely your baby will grow out of the newborn size much quicker than you think! If you are going with a cloth diaper service, like the kind I use with my babies here in NYC, make sure you have signed up with your service about a month in advance, and then a couple days before you are due you can activate the service. Make sure you buy the diaper covers, fasteners, and diaper pail that you will need for the cloth diapers ahead of time.
You are gonna want a trash can right next to the changing table so you can dispose of diapers or wipes as you go. Don't be fooled into thinking you need one of those fancy diaper genies. You don't. I'll tell you a secret: Diaper genies are just more expensive trash cans. They have a fancy front door opener that makes you think it's special, but usually that breaks within a month. Just get a regular trash can with a lid, and change the liner bag often.
And that's it for now! For a seemingly pared down list of essentials, it sure is long! Register for as much as possible so your loved ones can help out, buy used if it's not too sketchy, and remember that it's all worth it for your sweet and happy babe!