What Do You REALLY Need Before Having a Baby? My Top 10 Minimalist Baby Essentials

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Pregnancy is overwhelming as it is but one thing that makes the anticipation of a new little life WAY more stressful than it needs to be is the amount of stuff we’re conditioned to think we need. There. I said it. I think the stress of making registries, compiling lists of things for someone you’ve never met and anticipate things you’ll need without ever experiencing motherhood….it’s all a really good marketing scheme to get moms-to-be to buy way more than they need.

I’ve been there too. When I was pregnant with Evie, my now nearly six year old, I had zero clue of what I would need so I registered for ALL OF THE THINGS. I accepted ALL OF THE FREE THINGS from well-meaning friends and family.

But, as it turns out, I didn’t really need ALL OF THE THINGS.

With each subsequent pregnancy (there have been three so far, in case you’ve lost count), I’ve pared down my baby-essentials substantially. I’ve learned what I’ll really use and what things are just extras that take up space/money/time. Really, having a baby is quite simple. You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do and your newborn won’t take up nearly as much space as you think they will.

This post, something I should have written a long time ago, answers one of the most common questions I’m asked: what my “baby essentials” are and what do I think an expecting mother needs. (Keep in mind, these are just MY baby essentials. Some moms will find other things more helpful than others. If you have other essentials you’d like to share in the comments to help other mamas out, please do!) These essentials go beyond the obvious things like a car seat, clothes, burp cloths…and dive into the things I really can’t live without as a mama of a newborn.

Your essentials will change over time, but don’t focus on things you’ll need when your baby is 6-months or older, focus on the newborn phase and the first few months afterwards, and your list will be much smaller.

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1. A small bassinet

I’ve co-slept with all of my babies at some point, but the option of a bedside-sleeper, especially when they’re newborns and co-sleeping is a bit scarier, is really helpful. I have a thrifted Moses basket for Aria that I adore but with my other two I had more traditional bassinets and even just a pack ‘n play at one point.

2. A lounger or pillow

Although you’ll spend A LOT of time snuggling, chances are you’ll want to lay baby down at some point. I love Snuggle Me Organic’s loungers but you can get a Boppy or a Dock a Tot too. Babies usually feel secure and cozy in these loungers, giving mama a few minutes of downtime.

3. A high quality sling or wrap

I’ve worn Aria more than either of my other two and it’s been incredible. I started a few days after she was born with a Happy Wrap (a Poshmark find), but once she was a little bigger, I used my Wild Bird sling and haven’t looked back. It’s a thing of beauty to be able to use both hands and sooth your baby, let me tell ya.

4. Cloth diapers AND diaper liners

Deciding to use cloth diapers for Aria felt like a daunting decision (you can read about it here) but honestly, it’s been so easy and natural. The lightened burden to my conscience is an added boost too. We use Glow Bug Cloth Diapers almost exclusively and I’m obsessed with the way they grow with baby, from newborn to potty training. As Aria grows, I’m so glad I discovered diaper liners too. They’re not reusable, but they create far less waste than disposable diapers do.

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5. A small, quiet breast pump

If you plan to breastfeed and want to be away from your baby for more than a few hours at any point in their life, you’ll need a breast pump. I’ll never forget when AJ and I took our first vacation away from the girls when Mara was around 4 months old…I packed my gigantic Medela breast pump and had to pump everywhere from on public transportation to airports and restaurants. The loud squeaking and pumping of the machine only added to the fact that I felt like a dairy cow being exposed in public. This time around, I’ve used a gifted Elvie pump and, friends, I can’t recommend it more highly. Although it’s definitely an investment, if you plan to use it long term, often, or with multiple kiddos it’s well worth it. It doesn’t use any plastic bags, so you can store your milk in glass jars like I do or however you please, AND it’s basically silent and fits right in your bra so you can pump truly hands free.

6. Reusable nursing pads

Another area that’s easy to reduce waste in is by swapping disposable nursing pads for cloth ones. I’ve heard some mamas say that they never needed to use them, but if I didn’t, every shirt would look like I was trying to enter a wet t-shirt contest in a much less sexy way. I added mine to my registry before I had Aria and have used them nearly every day since. You can find them on Amazon and at lots of baby-boutiques or low-waste stores.

7. Mason Bottles

I love these bottles because they convert any Mason jar (typically a 4 or 8 oz) into a baby bottle. You can reuse the bottles of course and pass the other accessories on when you’re done.

8. 3+ Wet Bags

Before I used cloth diapers I didn’t even know what these little bags were. But honestly, I’m not sure how I got by without them before. Not only do I toss dirtied diapers in them at the tiny home and when we’re on the go, but I use them for spit-up covered clothes, dirty burp cloths or even things my older two dirty throughout the day. I have 4 or 5 from Glow Bug Cloth Diapers — they’re made from the same water proof material as their diaper covers — and I never smell or feel a thing.

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9. A sound machine

Before we went tiny, we used noise machines every night, but now that we live in an RV, they’re literally life-savers. We have one in the big girl’s room and one in the room with us and Aria and they save your sanity from baby waking up at every accidental bump in the night. Even if you have lots of space, a sound machine will help your baby sleep longer during naps and nighttime.

10. A few high quality swaddle blankets and swaddlers

Newborns (all of the ones I’ve had, anyway) love being swaddled. However, wrestling a squirmy baby into a large triangle blanket can be easier said than done. I loved getting zip up or velcro swaddlers for my babies that were 400 times easier to handle in the middle of the night than using true blankets were.


What did I miss? Add your essentials to the comments! I really think anything else is an extra that, depending on your lifestyle, you can probably get by without. Don’t let the typical Baby Lists stress you out!


*This post is part of a long term collaboration with Glow Bug Cloth Diapers. All opinions, images, and creative direction are my own.*