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Simplifying babyhood: top items for baby’s first year and beyond

Last summer I was blessed with my third baby. It was a truly beautiful time, as I found it so much easier to relax, follow my mothering instincts and care for my baby in a simpler way than I did with the birth of my first two children.

This relaxed approach wove its way not only into my interactions with my baby, but also into the way that I began to view baby paraphernalia. Store displays, pregnancy magazines and mothering websites would have us believe that with a new baby must come a load of stuff to care for all of their specific needs.

I have found this just isn’t true. Less has been more for us this time around, and I expect it will continue to be should our family be blessed again.

I’m going to share my thoughts on some of our personal baby essentials throughout the first year or two (once you’re past the early newborn stage). You may agree or disagree with various things I mention, but my goal isn’t to have you agree with me.

I share merely to demonstrate what simplifying babyhood has looked like in our home, and to help you evaluate what will actually be essential for your own family. Cutting down on clutter and making do with less “stuff” is always a valuable exercise, even if your essentials ultimately look different than mine or your sister’s or your best friend’s.

Here are the baby essentials in our home.

Top Items for Sleeping

Photo by One Step Ahead

Co-Sleeper (or playpen):

Though I’ve used a crib previously, a co-sleeper can do it all from newborn to toddler. It goes right up beside the bed for the early months of frequent nighttime nursing, then transitions to playpen style as baby grows. It packs up easily for traveling. Unless you have only a very small space, the full-size one grows with baby for much longer.

Fitted sheets and warm blankets:

Without a crib, there’s no need for a full bedding set. You only need two to three fitted sheets in neutral colors, and a few different blankets to alternate depending on how warm or cool it is.

Top Items for Diapering

Photo by Chris Sternal-Johnson

Cloth diapers:

I know this is a personal thing, but using cloth has meant less cost, less waste, and no midnight runs to the drug store for more sposies. I’ve fallen in love with my pocket diapers, but many systems work. About 12 good diapers allows me to wash three times a week.

Diapering accessories:

All I have are my diapers, a pail with a lid, some wipes (cheap baby washcloths) that I store in a yogurt tub with water, and some coconut oil and Weleda diaper cream for rashes. I did get a nice wet bag to hold my dirty diapers in my diaper bag as a gift this time around. It’s not essential, (I went through two babies by using old grocery bags) but it is handy.

Change pad:

I’ve found that a change table just isn’t necessary. I have a dresser that converts into one (a practical idea if you really do love having a change table) but I just never use it. I prefer the floor with a foldable change pad and a small basket with my diapering supplies.

Top Items for Eating

Photo by lindaaslund

I’ve recently discovered the joys of not making or using baby food . It’s sheer bliss and it couldn’t be easier.

To make this work really well, it helps to delay solids as long as possible. Once babies hit six to ten months, this should come naturally. At first they’ll mostly play with the food and this is fine, but gradually they’ll start to learn to do it and they’ll let you know that they’d like more!

It means that I need very little in the way of items for feeding. Here’s what I use.

Sippy cups:

I like to train my babies to use cups as soon as they can, but I do think it’s helpful to have a couple good BPA-free sippy cups, especially for outings. It isn’t really necessary to have a bunch of child cups, either. My kids actually prefer to use our smallest “grown up” glasses instead.

Bowls, plates & utensils:

I don’t bother with cutlery for quite a while. My nine month old just eats straight off her highchair tray. It’s going to get messy anyway, so why have two things to clean?

Once baby is older and can feed themselves with a spoon or fork, I love using small custard bowls (Pyrex are wonderful) or lightweight Corel bowls. Our babies and toddlers just use the same stainless steel teaspoons that we use, and the smaller dessert forks that came with our silverware set.

Booster seat:

This is an essential for me, to have a place for baby to eat on their own. But I’ve found that having a large, bulky highchair just isn’t necessary.

A smaller, portable, booster-style seat that attaches to a dining room chair works well as soon as baby can sit on their own, and then it transitions into a great place for a toddler. We currently have a regular highchair for our baby and a booster seat for our toddler, because that’s what we were given, but if something ever happened to the highchair, I would definitely replace it with another booster seat instead.

Top Items for Transportation

Photo by Tiare Scott


I’ve come to really love our Phil and Ted stroller. I never thought I would own such an expensive stroller, but for those with more than one young child, this is a wonderful option that allows you to own a single stroller, but still have double stroller functionality.

Some families get by with just one single stroller and have their toddler walk, or else push the toddler and use a baby carrier for their infant. This is a perfect option for those who don’t want to spend so much on a stroller, as you can get by with a simple, functional stroller that folds down flat and can be used for either an infant or a toddler (like this Zooper we used to have).

Baby carrier:

This is one of the few items of which I actually have two different varieties.Β  I like to use a fitted sling for the early months, and switch over to an Ergo as soon as baby has good head control. There are many styles of baby wearing (Mei Tais, Moby wraps, ring slings, Baby Bjorns, and the like). They’re all great, if they suit your needs. Do a bit of research, or even see if you can borrow or try out carriers from people you know.

Having a baby carrier that you love makes taking baby out a simple feat. I will often choose a baby carrier over taking a stroller with me, unless we’ll be walking for a long time. For church, it’s much nicer to use than carting around the stroller, and makes it easy to ensure that baby naps.

Top Items for Play

Photo by alex_lee2001

We’ve borrowed things like swings, exersaucers, and play mats, and in the end, I’ve realized that I don’t need or particularly want to have any of them cluttering up my house.

Babywearing is the perfect solution to a fussy little one, and usually more effective than a vibrating chair or a swing. Being next to mama and feeling close to the action of daily life makes most infants feel soothed and secure.

Infant-to-toddler chair:

This is the one item I haven’t been willing to part with. It can be useful for putting baby down to take a quick shower, or to give your back a rest from baby wearing if they’re happy to sit and look around.

Teething toys:

As for toys, we have very few that are especially geared to young babies. We do have about five to six high quality teething toys (both soft and wooden).

I’m selling our “baby” toys and some of our board books. Johanna is quite content to use her older sibling’s toys, like dolls and stuffed animals, colorful building blocks, play kitchen items or wooden cars, so there’s no sense in doubling up on playthings. She also finds their storybooks with beautiful artwork much more appealing than those one-word infant board books (ball, car, orange, blah).

Top Items for the Bathroom

Photo by CharlotteSpeaks

I’ve never understood the need for an infant bath tub. Using the regular tub with less water, and my arm cradled under baby, has always seemed like such an easy solution. I’ve also tried the mesh washing boards (much smaller for storage) but still found that baby was happiest in my arms.

Tub seat:

It lets an older baby sit and play without mom having to hover over the tub quite as much. My little girl enjoys splashing around in hers, in the tub with her siblings, while I sit on the (closed) toilet seat and meal plan. Multi-tasking at its finest.

Children’s toilet seat adapter:

Although both of my older children have used a toddler potty somewhat, neither of them have cared much for it. Instead, they prefer to use the grown-up potty and a stool, so that they can do it “just like Mommy and Daddy.”

One useful gadget is a smaller toilet seat that fits on top of the adult seat, which helps little ones feel more secure. It comes on and off easily, and is much more compact for storing in both your bathroom or when you’re not actively potty training.

What baby items do you find to be essential in the first year or two?

Reading Time:

6 minutes





  1. prerna

    Really helpful post, Stephanie. With my toddler, we co-slept and still do in the big bed, so the crib was not needed and also, the sippy cups were not needed since she moved from breastfeeding to a regular cup:-)
    Other than that, I used pretty much everything on your list. And yeah, no booster seat. I have a Fisher-Price high chair that she started using around 8-9 months and is still using:-)
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..The Importance of Girl Time and Girl Talk =-.

  2. Alison @ Femita

    Great shopping list for soon-to-be mothers. I love how you stick to the essentials. It’s so easy to lose yourself in buying all kinds of cute toys and helpful tools that end up only occupying space. As for the potty I must say I tried the toilet seat adapter approach, but I had a lot more success with a toddler potty. It’s certainly true that many children like to imitate grown-ups, but the height of a toilet can make them feel uncomfortable. I would suggest to try both approaches and see what works best for your kid.
    .-= Alison @ Femita´s last blog ..Potty Training for Amazing Moms with Stubborn Children =-.

  3. Krista

    excellent post with great suggestions! it is funny to me that so many people don’t want a change table – one of my friends commented several times on the fact that we had one. we didn’t own a dresser that would suffice as a change table (we were given my dad’s childhood dresser, made by my grandfather, and it was too tall), and so we bought a change table. after delivery, my back was in VERY rough shape for a long time. that change table was the perfect height and a total lifesaver, because the bed or the floor just were not good options.

    • Laura

      I also have back problems and found the changing table to be essential. Most of my friends just change them on the floor/couch, but it’s just not an option.

  4. Rachel

    I didn’t want a double stroller when I had my second. So we got a radio flyer ATW (larger tires) wagon. Our town has lots of ‘vintage’ sidewalks in the residential areas. I was able to set the infant car seat in the wagon and have my then two yo fit in also. My booster high chair fit in the wagon tightly. So when the baby preferred to sit up I strapped her in the booster which was wedged in the wagon. The wagon was also great for carrying the groceries.
    I also use the seat that fits on the toilet seat for training. I got the kind that install on the toilet. So an adult needs to flip up the lid and the kids seat to use the toilet. I found it easier then finding a storage spot for the kind that just sit on.

  5. Haley

    I, too, hate having unnecessary baby clutter strewn about the house. I’d only add a few things to your list:

    -We used our crib as a cosleeper by putting the mattress as high as it would go and the side rail as low as it would go.

    -I know you don’t *need* a changing table, but having one saves my back and I’m really glad we have one.

    -We love our Kinderville silicone bowls and Baby Bjorn spoons!

    -My favorite baby toys are small playsilks. You can buy plain white ones online for a couple of dollars and then dye them with koolaid.

    -We used the $10 Summer Infant bath sling in our big tub for over a year! Even when my daughter wanted to sit up to play, she laid back on it while I was washing her hair.

    -The Miracle Blanket swaddler really does work wonders. Seriously. It’s amazing. Flannel receiving blankets and the other brands of swaddlers just don’t compare.

    -I’m always mystified when people say they only have 12-18 cloth diapers. I have 3 dozen prefolds and 6 covers and think that’s the perfect number!

    • C P

      I use regular zippered sleeper bags by Carter’s from the thrift store and sewed the sleeves shut, inside the bag. Works wonderfully, and only $3 each!

      • Laura

        ahh- I so agree about the diapers- I can’t fathom how people can have so few. I have at least 5 dozen prefolds and 7 good covers and can go a week without washing if I want (1 baby).

        • Nancy

          Babies who only need to be changed 5 times a day can indicate a serious health problem. Please don’t portray that few changes as normative.

    • Nancy

      I agree. So many people told me to not bother with a change table, but it saved my back. And I find it better to have an area for diapering separate to playing and eating.

  6. Laine

    Great list! But, I’m curious, why aren’t bottles, clothes, or a carseat listed?
    .-= Laine´s last blog ..Baby Carriers 101 =-.

  7. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

    Because we let our baby run around nude… just kidding! I guess I assumed that carseat and clothes were must-haves that didn’t need to be mentioned, but you’re right. They’re absolutely essentials!

    As for bottles, I am a breastfeeding mom who advocates complete, extended breastfeeding to moms who are able, with a transition straight over to a cup or sippy when baby is ready. For those who are unable to breastfeed for any reason, of course bottles would be an essential! πŸ™‚
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s last blog ..Naturally Knocked Up Ecourse Giveaway- =-.

    • Kathryn

      This brings up a fun memory: we have friends who really do consider clothes a non-essential for warm-weather babies. They used to bring their little one to church in nothing but a cloth diaper and cover. It actually made a lot of sense, given that we live in the South, where the heat/humidity combo can wreak havoc on clothed babies’ skin.

    • Gabrielle

      As for clothes, of course you need them, but I would argue that you probably don’t need to BUY them. My child is 18 months and I’ve hardly bought a thing for her. Everyone else does it for me, and I get fabulous hand-me-downs from friends. I’ve received so many clothes from friends that I can afford to be picky with the outfits. If I don’t love it, we toss it. In the winter, we had to purchase a couple of outfits, some on consignment, and I also bought a pair of BabyLegs to stretch her fall wardrobe, but otherwise, we’ve hardly bought a thing. Still, everyone always comments on how well- dressed she is. Baby clothes are practically disposable, so I truly feel it’s unwise financially to spend much on them. I’d rather make wise decisions now and be able to help my children out in college than spend tons of money on baby clothes.

  8. Aimee

    Great post and so true. We lived in a small house so didn’t have much of a choice about going simple but I’m glad we did it! If I may add a couple of things:

    – Even if you use a crib, you only need the items listed. We never put loose blankets in with a baby so it’s still just a fitted sheet.
    – Couldn’t agree more with you on the booster seat – our friends who have traditional high chairs are always saying they wish they had gone with something simpler.
    – Our pediatrician recommended NOT introducing a sippy cup but rather introducing a cup with a lid and a straw. I swear it’s one of the best things we did. According to our doctor it’s better for their oral development and I found it a much easier transition to just using a cup. It was also as simple as it gets when eating out, etc. because every restaurant has cups with straws so we weren’t lugging around sippy cups and forgetting them, etc.

    Love your keeper of the home site, btw!

    • Erin OK @ it's OK

      We introduced a cup first. Once he could use it I got a sippy cup for when we’re out or when I want to let him hold it himself without water getting everywhere!

  9. Naomi

    Great list! I’ve actually been thinking about making a simpler post on one of my blogs. Some of the things you mentioned would also be on my list, like the co sleeper and cloth diapers. Personally, I have really enjoyed the wrap carrier I made for myself. You can find lots of great Youtube videos on how to wrap, but I made it for only $2.50 and it’s the most comfortable carrier I’ve tried!
    .-= Naomi´s last blog ..Daphney’s learning her alphabet too- =-.

  10. Paula@Motherhood Outloud

    We are expecting #3 in a couple of months and I totally agree that less is more when it comes to babies! I am also a big fan of a booster seat, our Fisher Price one has made it through 2 beautifully and is ready and waiting for this new one. I’m a big fan of the infant swing, but we are replacing our huge one with a great portable one I found at a consignment sale this time. Also, if you are looking for a great stroller that is easy to open, close, and take with you, I’d recommend looking at MacClaren. They can be pricey, but both of ours (single & double) were discounted because they were “old” models (but still brand new). Less (and when available, smaller) really is more!
    .-= Paula@Motherhood Outloud´s last blog ..One Real Family’s Tips for Going Green =-.

  11. Laine

    Thanks for the reply Stephanie! That’s awesome that you’ve never had to use a bottle, I’d love to hear more about how you make that work. Maybe an article for another day!
    .-= Laine´s last blog ..Baby Carriers 101 =-.

    • Nancy

      We don’t use bottles much either. I am a SAHM, and exclusively breastfeeding, so bottles are not critical for us. If I have to leave my baby for more than two hours, I pump a bottle for my husband to give to the baby. With my older daughter, from 3 months on, she never had a bottle… she refused to take it. You just have to be prepared to be attached at the hip with your child! Easier with the first one, harder with subsequent ones.

    • Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

      In general, everyday circumstances we haven’t needed a bottle. We did need to use one this fall, when I had to go on heavy-duty medication due to illness, but that was an extenuating circumstance. With our first two children, we didn’t need to. So I don’t feel they are usually essential, unless a special situation arises. Just in the interest of full disclosure! πŸ™‚

    • Jessie

      We’ve never used a bottle with our 14-month-old. We’ve never even owned any! I’m pretty much just with her all the time — she’s never been away from me for more than 2 hours (except when she’s asleep, of course). I think that’s the only way to make it work! Oh, that and not having any compunctions about breastfeeding in front of other people! πŸ™‚

  12. Rachel

    We co-slept happily with my son. I’d say a bed rail is an essential item. Some babies (mine, for example) want to cuddle right next to mama. A bed rail adds piece of mind when he’s on the “outside” of you. BTW, if you’re a first time mom and you’re considering a co-sleeper, see if you can borrow one before you invest. They aren’t cheap and they don’t work with a babies or even all adult beds.

    To add to the list: I’d say a comfortable chair for nursing is essential. It does make a difference. And perhaps more essential than anything else: other moms for emotional support for you!

  13. Nikki Moore

    Even though we don’t have kids yet, this is a breath of fresh air to read! Thanks so much for the reminder that babies don’t need cheap junk and clutter any more than we do. I have always hated the garish plastic baby clutter that seems to accumulate (I’m the oldest of a large family and was changing diapers at a very young age!); even church nurseries bug me.

    I’ve always said that my kids will get big cardboard boxes and tupperware to play with; those were my favorites as a small kid. (Guess I will use BPA-free tupperware though!) We don’t need all that baby plastic nonsense! There is so much commercialism tied into the baby industry; it’s kind of mind-boggling when you see the other side of it.
    .-= Nikki Moore´s last blog ..I Hate Exercise =-.

  14. Jamie

    Great post, thanks! I am using the Safari browser and the links (particularly the booster seat, infant to toddler seat, and strollers) are saying “404 Not found”. I’m really curious to see the items you recommend. Is anyone else having problems?

  15. Brianah

    I am also not able to load the pictures. I have tried it with Chrome and Internet Explorer and got the same message. Can you post a different link to each of those items? My problems were also with the three listed by Jamie.

  16. Andrea Cherie

    As a first time mom to be- I LOVE your posts on simplicity! Especially the one you referenced about skipping baby foods & puree’s! I full time nannied last year for two infants 9.5 months apart with an extremely uptight (controlling?) mama- that was SO eye opening to me as to what I do and don’t want in my house- your article hit the nail on the head! Keep them coming for the newbie!
    .-= Andrea Cherie´s last blog ..Advice I wish I got at week 5 =-.

  17. mom24

    I agree that we don’t need as much’stuff’ as we think for our newborns. A friend gave me a shower for my 4th baby and all I could think to ask for was onsies and clothe daipers – lol!
    But I wil say that ‘baby wearing’ isn’t for everyone either. I have tried and tried to keep my newborns close to me but with 11 lb newborns and a very weak back, I have never been able to do so (much to my disappointment). So I like to have at least 1 excersaucer or jumpy seat in which I can set the baby near me. I try to choose something small, portable, and bouncy (by which I mean, where the baby can use their legs to jump). I feel that this is good for their muscles and lymph system in the long run anyway. Bumbo seats are very expensive but nice if you can find one at a yardsale too!

    Great info! Thx for the post!

  18. Jen

    Stephanie- the link on the infant-toddler chair isn’t working….. I would love to see what you are talking about. My list is about the same, and a Phil&Ted stroller is on my dream list. Great article!

  19. Lisa

    That is a great list! I totally agree. The only thing that I would add as an absolute essential is a nursing pillow. I love my Boppy, I couldn’t imagine nursing without one! And the only thing I would leave off the list is a stroller. With my second son, I had him in an Ergo from the first week, and never found any use for a stroller.

  20. MamaK

    I agree! All items you listed are on my must haves. I have tried to explain the no baby food thing to people and they look at me funny. Oh well! My kid(s) have a great palate and eat all kinds of healthy, whole foods right from about 6 months. (And did I mention it’s cheaper?)
    Oh and I would add some basic breastfeeding supplies (book, bras, nipple cream) for those that plan to breastfeed, but don’t go crazy with bottles and pumps. We didn’t mess with bottles this time hardly at all. Simple!
    .-= MamaK´s last blog ..Happy Fathers Day- =-.

    • Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

      Agreed about the basic breastfeeding supplies- definitely important! I don’t feel that a pump is essential, either. Hand expressing is simpler than people think!

      • Laura

        I would totally advise any nursing mom to get at least an electric single pump- and keep a small thing of formula on hand just in case something is not working or you need to leave the baby with someone else for a bit… it’s nice to have a back up plan in my opinion. I ended up getting an expensive pump because of problems with nursing, but I wouldn’t splurge on that unless it’s necessary.

  21. Nola

    I’ve found a crib after the first few months essential for us to enable the baby to be put down in the crib for naps and also for night time and then transferred to our bed to actually cosleep after the first night waking. Cosleepers intrigued me, but I always thought that they wouldn’t work once the baby is older and can climb out (since it wouldn’t have as high sides as a crib?) maybe I am wrong.

    Definately agree on the blanket thing. Why do people seem to think “blanket” when giving a baby gift I never know…my oldest was given over 20 of them and then the second girl also given more (although only a few, but we didn’t need them) I feel badly about donating some but who needs aronud 25 baby blankets?

    We were given a change table and I find it essential. Those dresser ones are not the right height for me (I haven’t seen any that are but maybe there are) but also our change table was free. When I have to use the floor at someone else’s house or while out, my back really feels it. So I feel its essential for us. Also lots of space for the essential prefolds and covers and washcloth wipes! Same goes for the baby bathtub and mesh tub rest thing…essential for my back, that way I can bathe baby on the kitchen table!

    I also found my Moby wrap (newborn to about 4 or 5 months) and ergo (4 or 5 months to toddlerhood and beyond) the MOST essential of anything. If I just had those, some diapers and some sleepers, we’d be set.

    Sleepers are also #1 essential, I wish people wouldn’t comment….they ask when the baby will be in “real” clothes. I use them as long as I can get away with! We were given far too many little frilly dresses and such that hardly/never got used.

    • C P

      Some co-sleepers will convert to a playpen for when baby gets too big for the co-sleeping position (not all will though!)

  22. D

    Great list for first time Moms – I used the Fisher price booster seat that attached to our dining room chairs for both of my daughters who are now 4 and 7. We have a small house (1300 sq ft) so a bulky high chair would have been in the way. What I loved was that my girls were able to sit at the same level as the rest of the family at meals so they felt connected as we ate. They are both really, good eaters who will try an adventure bite of just about anything. I think being at the table rather than in a high chair helped with this. They love sitting down as a family to eat dinner together.

  23. Nancy

    Skipping jarred baby foods and purees in general was the best thing we ever did. My two year old has eaten regular, whole food from the beginning (of being introduced to solids). She has an excellent palate, is willing to try most things and her language development is above&beyond. It is the number one thing about her that people comment on! We will definitely be doing the same thing with our younger daughter (2 months). I also second what D said, it’s so great to eat together as a family with everyone at the table!

    As for the stroller, I am thinking about getting a BuggyBoard for my toddler. It’s a platform that attaches to the stroller and she can ride on it, in front of me, while I push the stroller. I refuse to get a double stroller!

    Our baby bathtub is a Puj, which I love because it lays flat for drying and storage. (Though someone tells me that that it does not work in all sinks!)

    • JenT

      We bought a buggyboard for our 20 month old when our second child was born and it was great! If he wanted to walk, he just hopped off and walked, if he tired, he hopped on. I would totally recommend it, but ask if you can try it with your stroller in the store before you buy it. When we bought ours, there were 2 models available and although one was recommended for our type of stroller, when I tried it, I found it stuck out to far at the back, making it really hard for me to walk, and the handle of the stroller was in an awkward place for my son. The other (not recommended) model worked much better for us.

    • Alaina

      Thank you for posting about the buggy board option. This is exactly what I have been wanting!! I don’t want to have to waist my single jogging stroller that works perfectly fine- so the buggy board option is the best solution! thanks!! Adding the Englacha 2-in-1 Junior X Rider to my registry now! What i love about this one is my toddler can sit and be trapped if we want him to, or he can ride the board if its a good option.

  24. Sheri

    I chuckled out loud when you noted that the toilet seat was closed πŸ™‚
    I just had my third and have also noticed the “things” dwindling. We have fairly similar things to you. I got a Phil & Teds stroller last fall (used on craigslist) and I love it! I love the versatility of it depending on which kids we want to put in it.

  25. Mother of Pearl

    I would say the baby carrier is not essential, at least not for my kids. They grew so fast (size 6-9 months clothes at three weeks old) that they were way too big to be reasonably carried around for long. Also not necessary is the infant car seat – the longest one of my kids fit in that was 4 months – and he was a preemie. I would just get a convertible seat and skip the infant seat if I had it to do over again.

    And baby food – that was an essential for my kids. They were way off the top of the growth charts and needed more calories than milk was going to give them. We nursed plenty and had plenty of milk to give, but it wasn’t a matter of not being committed to nursing – I had great big babies and they needed something more. If your babies are petite maybe you can get away with no baby food. But for us it was an essential.

  26. Laura

    Yes, VERY good post. Covers all the basics. I wish I had read this during my first pregnancy! Now we know… =)

  27. Andy

    Its a great post by you. The items you provided are really good but I think not all the items are needed. Some may be excluded. But still thanks for the information.

  28. Chrstin

    I think most baby toys, bouncer, saucers and swings are very bad for developing nervous systems.
    I bought a few things used and it wasn’t much stuff.
    It was..
    play pen near our bed with the sheets
    a few glass bottles for when I can seek away
    a couple wooden rattles and block
    an egro
    a car seat
    cloth diaper
    hand me down cloths
    a used backback for a diaper bag
    The only things I bought new were
    a soft doll and blankie and
    a natural rubber binky

  29. Erin

    When I had my baby 18 months ago, I remember the Moby wrap saving my life! Those things are great. Not only did it comfort her, it made it nice because strangers are a lot less likely to put their hands on your child when they are actually intruding in the Momma’s space. When you have a Christmas baby the colds and flu’s are so rampant that I was an absolute freak about strangers touching her without washing their hands.

  30. Laura K. Cowan

    Thanks for the list, Stephanie! I love your tips on baby feeding, especially. I found that a baby tub helped me because it was hard for me to lean over the edge of our tub and support baby, but that’s because I had a torn ligament–but I got the tub for free. πŸ™‚ We also splurged a bit on a Baby Hawk mei tai-style baby carrier and 2 strollers (one purchased for a vacation that required a plane ride and 2 weeks of me carrying baby while hubby worked) for the same reason. It seems everyone has different essentials depending on their situation and lifestyle, but I love seeing lists like this to get an idea of what other moms love, and how they use their gear. Thanks!

  31. Nancy

    We live in a small town now but when we lived in NYC, I found it necessary to have a travel stroller, for riding public transportation, in addition to a big stroller (which I had gotten as a gift). Then, when I was pregnant, we were able to get a free infant car seat along with a snap’n’go, so we have THREE strollers. I am trying to sell the travel stroller, but I find the snap’n’go too valuable, especially with a toddler in tow. I hate that we have so many strollers! I think buggy boards are great and I plan to get one when my second daughter outgrows her infant carrier and I have to stop using the snap’n’go.

    Like D, we had our daughter at the table with us when she started solids. It’s been so great to be able to skip jarred baby food and purees, and just start with whole foods. My daughter has a great palate, is pretty adventurous and her language development has been phenomenal (it’s the number one thing people comment on!).

    Great list. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two the third time around. LOL.

  32. Joanna LaForte

    The only thing I would add/mention that’s slightly tangential but still really important is NURSING SHIRTS/DRESSES. If you’re nursing 6-10 times a day, it’s really so much easier to do so if you’ve got easy access. (Even though we’re home most days, we do go out to eat occassionally and attend church 1-2 times per week, as well as visit relatives/friends.) If I had been thinking ahead this last pregnancy, I would have skipped buying plain maternity clothes and went straight to maternity/nursing clothing. It’s very hard to find inexpensive nursing clothing used and regular clothes generally don’t work well for me. (I have been able to find some stretchy v-necked shirts that I can layer with a nursing tank for modesty but it’s very hit & miss.) I know this isn’t specifically for baby but I’d pretty much consider it an essential for a full-time nursing mama.

  33. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

    Keeping it simple is what I’m all about – but I did discover a new baby gadget for no. 2 that I LOVE: Aden & Anais swaddle blankets. they’re muslin, big enough for a proper swaddle (baby 2 slept 10x better than baby 1!), and we still use them as sheets for her at age 2! Pricey, but worth it in my book.
    Excellent breakdown of wants vs. needs, Stephanie!
    πŸ™‚ Katie

  34. Jeanne

    Granted, my babies all have babies of their own now, but I still remember well. My list from back then would be much like y’all’s lists: baby carriers, simple toys, cloth diapers and covers, co-sleeping, etc. I never did figure out how to use a baby bath tub, though I was given one. My kids all had baths in the kitchen sink. The one thing that sticks out in my mind that I missed in your list was my Happy Baby Food Grinder. I loved that thing! It was so easy to use and to clean and went everywhere, no noise, no big deal. We never used commercial baby foods. Some of my friends made their own baby foods with their blenders, saving them in ice cube trays, then into bags in the freezer, which they found to be very convenient. I just always liked offering whatever the rest of us were eating and using my simple hand food grinder when the consistency of our whole foods was not appropriate for our little one. I figured if we were eating a meal with nothing appropriate for the baby to eat, we needed to seriously re-think what we were eating.

    • Beth

      Ditto on the kitchen sink for baths! Mine are all big now, some producing children of their own, but the sink was a back AND water saver. I used exersaucers, johnny-jump-up seats, baby sling seats, etc (mostly handed down/loaned)… because I never found a sling/carrier that worked for me and my hurting back! We did LOVE our baby jogger as it can go over bumpy trails and easily over curbs or logs. We used it camping and hiking as well as city streets and it held up so well from my youngest FOUR that we were able to pass it along to grandchildren!

  35. Sarah M

    Great post, this is definitely true for me since I hate clutter of all kinds!
    One thing, though, that I L-O-V-E is our sit-n-stand stroller. I didn’t buy it until my son was 2 1/2 (and baby 1 year) but it has the capability to attach a baby carseat to the front if you’re so inclined. It can literally hold up to 3 children, is lightweight, and for $99 on sale at Target, I think, VERY worth the money. I looked all over ebay and craigslist fo ra used one, and quite frankly, they were the same price used as new, since they hold their value!! They are AWESOME!
    Sarah M

  36. Laura Lee

    I agree on the baby carrier. Keeps baby calm and allows me to care for older siblings.

  37. lura

    one additional essential for me would be the grobag! It’s like a sleeping bag for infants/toddlers. My son, now 2 1/2 still sleeps in a grobag & even walks around in it when he wakes up. I have absolutely no idea how we would have taught him when nap or bed time was without it. Now, when I get the bag out, he lays on it & knows it is time for bed.
    If you are a working, breastfeeding Mama, as I was, I would suggest the Medela double pump. For carriers, the hotsling all the way πŸ™‚

  38. Kate

    My must-haves: Car seat, Moby, Mei Tai, co-sleeper/crib/bassinette (whatever’s big enough to be up against my bed and function for a long time, I’ve used them all at different points), infant tub (love mine for the first 6 mo – would bathe little one while bigger one was in real tub next to me), changing table (organizes all my cloth diapering supplies), cloth diapers, a few blankets, onesies.

    Nice to have: Play gym (first loved it), teething toys, pop-up toy (I can’t tell you how often BOTH my kids play with that one toy), double stroller, high chair (I had a booster too with my oldest and got a high chair only when #2 was born).

    My second lived in the Moby especially when out the first 6 months, then went into the Mei Tai. As he learned to sit up well I wore him less and less and now he prefers to sit in the stroller or cart so he can see the world and be a part of it. πŸ™‚ Whenever we are blessed with #3 I will probably wear him/her ALL the time so I can chase my older ones (who will be at least 3 years and 20 months, respectively).

  39. C P

    When I was pregnant, I kept hearing from parents who said their house wouldn’t get filled with baby stuff, and then it was. I have found upon becoming a parent that I really don’t need all the baby stuff, just as I thought. Our 5 month old baby is happiest watching *us* and our activities, and doesn’t like all the fancy baby minders anyway!

    I got a used mini co-sleeper and I love it, though baby started sleeping in her crib when she started sleeping through the night at 3 months, because we would wake her up when we came to bed. If she wakes up during the night, though, she spends the remainder of the night in her co-sleeper. We got the crib as a hand-me-down; if I had to buy everything myself, I agree with the suggestion for a full-sized co-sleeper.

    I don’t use anything but a fitted sheet in either my crib or co-sleeper.
    For cloth diapers, I love flat diapers because they are so versatile for many things other than diapers : bibs and washcloths, and I love thirsties diaper covers: they fit better than the pocket diapers we got as hand-me-downs.

    My diapering accessories are a cheap plastic dishpan for dirty diapers and clothes, oxy-clean for washing the dirty diapers and clothes, old used washcloths from the thrift store, that are whetted with plain water for wiping baby’s bum (commercial wipes caused diaper rash on my baby), and some zinc oxide cream (when diaper-free time isn’t possible or isn’t enough).

    I use the crib at its highest setting for changing diapers. I made very simple pockets to hand over the side of the crib to hold diapering supplies.

    I strongly disagree with delaying solids. The most recent research on allergies and introduction of foods shows more and more clearly that the earlier allergens are introduced, the less chance that the child will develop life-long allergies. You shouldn’t introduce solids before 4 months or when the baby still has the tongue-thrusting reflex, but all foods that the baby is likely to be exposed to during their life should be introduced in the first year, including peanuts, shellfish, eggs, etc.

    I haven’t used commercial baby food either; I just mush up food between my fingers or teeth, and finger-feed it to baby. I ordered a hand-powered food mill to grind up small quantities of meals for baby; we’ll see how that works. I agree about the cups and utensils.

    And a booster seat! So much simpler! We got a hand-me-down highchair, but it went to the grandparents because it was HUGE! Booster seat all the way!

    I wouldn’t have bought a stroller, but we got one as a hand-me-down and I do like to go shopping with it and put the groceries in the mesh basket underneath.

    For the baby carrier, I’ve tried the Moby Wrap, Snugli Front & Back, and a homemade Mei Tai. My favorite is the Mei Tai and they’re very easy to make. The Snugli is also great and cheap, and should last a long time because it can be used as a backpack too. The moby wrap is a nice idea, but it was hot, even in the winter, and hard to get in and out of.

    A bouncer has been the most-used “toy”. Our baby loved being held for the first 2-3 months, but then preferred being put down in her bouncer so she could watch the action better. I got mine for $3 at the thrift store. Her next-favorite toy is Sophie the Giraffe teether. She also loves her Global Babies board book, because of all the interesting faces. At 3 months she would stare and stare at it.

    The baby tub we were given will be sold. I used it once, but soon decided bathing in the tub with her was simpler.

    I have needed a potty because I started potty training at 4 months. I found elimination communication to be too much work, but I love the book “Diaper Free Before 3”. I shudder at the thought of changing a 4 year old’s diaper, like my niece was. Less diapers should mean less cost, less rashes, and less yeast and urinary tract infections.

  40. Nikki

    Hi Stephanie,

    I just stumbled upon your blog. While reading your post I had to remind myself that it wasn’t written by me! My husband and I have 3 children, and we use the same exact minimal baby gear items that you use. We also homeschool. It was kind of scary (in a good way) reading your post! Glad to find your blog and I will add it to my favorites πŸ™‚

  41. Paige

    I really appreciate your list–& the sentimate of not needing so many millions of garish, baby “must haves” we’re bombarded with! I have a 3 1/2 yo & am expecting again ANY DAY now–& instead of getting stuff for the new baby, I’m getting rid of all the extraneous clutter we never used the first time around!

    My list of must haves includes the following:
    1. Enough cloth diaper–my enough is more than yours :)–& my first baby went to daycare at 1 year, so we had to do all-in-ones or pockets
    2. Pump if you work outside the home–i needed this last time to continue exclusive breastmilk–hoping to stay home this time
    3. Changing table topper for dresser–I cansee why some don’t need this–but my back wouldve died getting up & down off the floor & grandma definitely wouldve killed us πŸ™‚
    4. Wrap/sling/baby carrier–I really didn’t use the stroller until my daughter was 2 1/2–& the carrier we used changed as she got older & weighed more–we’ll use the one we got the first time around for my daughter & carry the baby
    5. Bed rail(s)–we coslept with my daughter for the first year & dint need any other bed for her–but the rail was a lifesaver for when she was napping alone or on the “outside” of mama
    6. Some sort of really good swaddling blanket. We had the best luck with just the thermal blankets (that kind of waffle weave material)–but whatever works for you–but swaddling really shouldve been#1 on my list!
    7. Tripp trapp high chair/booster–I love this thing. Baby sits at the table right from the beginning-and I like it for all the same reasons I’d rather have a booster than a traditional highchair–but we all love this (ridiculously expensive, hard to find used) chair
    8. We used the vibrating infant seat just so I could occasionally put my daughter down & get a shower–it worked when nothing else did! We’ll see if it’s necessary for this baby or not!

  42. Jasi

    Love this topic. We didn’t use our crib, high chair.. all that nonsense we thought we’d need. It’s so liberating to just get all that clutter out from between you and the baby. Sometimes parenting feels overwhelming, certainly lugging around tons of equipment adds to that.

    I opt for sling, clothes, butt paste, wipes and dipes, a sippy for traveling or rough nighttimes with a toddler, 3 second rec thermometer and maybe a pack-n-play with sheets. Unnecessary but fun were the healthy booster and a good stroller.

    Everything else we had we really didn’t need. We used a towel in shallow watered tub to bathe. We used our bowls and cups (no plastic- save that sippy and nalgene travel bottles). Our own towels, etc. Toys seem to come on their own. =) Book baby showers are great! Don’t get caught up in the stuff- cos someone’s gotta clean and put away that stuff. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time playing with new baby?

  43. Cuddly Baby

    Great list Steph. Cloth diapers are good for babies to prevent allergies, however, working moms may find it inconvenient. I love the pictures here, thanks.

  44. Christy

    I reached most of the same conclusions by the time we had our third also. lol. I posted something similar:

    Recently, we had extended family stay for a week and they were surprised that we didn’t have plastic cups for the little ones. Our kids use Corelle mugs and small juice glasses. I do have a couple of BPA-free sippy cups for our 10mo.

    A friend of mine was telling me about a family that was charged with neglect and one of the reasons sited was that there was no crib for the baby (other serious circumstances were involved, of course). I haven’t had a traditional crib for the last 3 babies, just a co-sleeper and when they are too big for that, a toddler mattress on the floor for naps.

  45. Jett

    I love the diapers they look so awesome I would of have never thought there would be different kinds or many other varieties to diapers πŸ™‚ know what i mean.

  46. Erin OK @ it's OK

    Are you suggesting that board books aren’t necessary?! We can’t let my 11-month-old touch any other books or he rips or EATS them! I’m hoping he outgrows this soon, but board books are awesome in the meantime!

  47. Jeanna


    Thanks for making this post. I am expecting my first little one and really vibe with the simple approach when it comes to baby items.

    I do have a question about the co-sleeper. Does it come with a waterproof pad? If not, what would you all recommend for one?

  48. Modern Mommy

    I definitely agree about simplifying as much as possible with the baby gear. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the registry planning and end up with a ton of things you don’t really need. I love the idea of a co-sleeper that can convert into a playpen. Having baby right there during those first few months is so much easier on the sleep schedule, especially when you’re breastfeeding every few hours.

  49. Zainab

    Hi, Great advise.

    I really like the play pen/ co sleeper that you have. Can you tell me where its from. I looked at arm’s reach and one step ahead and couldn’t find it. Can you please tell me where you got that specific one from.


  50. Brigette

    This has been so helpful for a soon mother to be, thank you

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