How Much Stuff Does a Newborn Really Need?

Hey Dad, are you prepping for the arrival of a very special little baby? Congrats. And before you swipe that credit card one more time, let’s chat.

You don’t really need all that stuff ... seriously.

New parents spend more time and waste more money hunting for items they’ll never use than I spend hunting for clothes. That’s saying something.

Personally, I blame the changing table. Nowhere in the world of baby goods is there a more useless and yet ubiquitous item. Almost everyone who has an infant buys a changing table. But why? The truth is that you’ll be changing that baby anywhere and everywhere necessary.

Skip the changing table. There’s a much better alternative. Portable changing pads are a godsend: easy to clean, carry, and use on any surface; you’ll kiss the person who gives you one. Bonus: You can put them on restaurant and airport changing tables to keep little bums clean and protected from whatever was on the butt of the last baby who used it.

So if changing tables are overrated, what do you really need? Is there some secret list of essentials? What happens if you ignore this article?

There is a list, and I’m trying to spare you a hernia in addition to those sleepless first nights of life with baby. Before my son arrived, I could travel light. Really light. I took an onboard suitcase with me on weeklong trips, and had room to spare.

Today, I haul a giant suitcase, stroller, car seat, camera bag, and half of Toys ‘R’ Us with me everywhere. And I’m a light packer. There are plenty of parents out there who haul that much to the park. I have a friend who needs two strollers: one for the kids, and one for their stuff. Kids accumulate junk quickly, but if you start implementing some of the ideas listed below now, you can keep it under control and save a lot of cash, too.

What You Don't Need

Burp cloths. Use swaddling blankets instead – portable warmth and the perfect cleanup aid for emergencies. They’re much softer and more absorbent, too.

Diaper bags. Entirely unnecessary, just use a backpack or messenger bag you’ve already got on hand. Of course, if you find one that looks great and feel like indulging, go for it.

Newborn clothes. Most kids only wear them for a week or two, so unless you’ve got a preemie, just opt for 0-3 month clothing.

Fuzzy baby blankets. Sure, get one for added warmth, but with fleece pajamas, swaddling sacks, and the umpteen layers of onesies and play outfits that go on underneath, you don’t really need 5 fluffy blankets, too.

Crib bumpers. Not only are they unnecessary, they’re actually dangerous. You increase your baby’s risk of suffocation if you use them.

Peepee teepees. Cute as the idea of keeping your little man from peeing on you by giving his peepee a teepee during changing might seem, trust me, it doesn’t work. I’ll spare you the details, and leave it at this: experience is a good teacher. You WILL be peed on.

Wipe warmers. If you’re living in an igloo, these make sense. I’m going to go on the assumption that you aren’t. Skip them. They take up space and don’t do anything spectacular for your little one.

Pacifier wipes. Ummm…whatever happened to soap and water?

Baby shoes. Tiny feet aren’t made for footwear. They don’t need protection from the ground (babies don’t walk!), and as cute as they are, they’ll be outgrown before you can blink. Oh, and when baby does start walking, resist the urge to buy tons of cute shoes. Little feet need to feel the ground – it helps prevent flat feet and improves their stability.

Baby knee pads. Just like little feet need to feel the ground, so do little knees. Babies are tougher than you think, and they enjoy being free to roam. Don’t weigh your little one down with unnecessary garbage.

Stuffed animals. Right now, they’re just something else to gnaw on. Baby is too little to really play with them, and some parts may not be safe for little ones (eyes, noses, and accessories are often choking hazards).

Baby food maker. It’s a food processor/blender with a paint job, and your little one won’t be eating solids until they’re six months old, anyways.

Shopping cart covers for your baby. Your little one is too young for these, anyways. A good wearable baby carrier is the best option. And when baby is bigger, still skip these money-wasters. They take forever to attach, don’t do much except look cute, and won’t make baby any more comfortable or protect him from germs.

Bathtub thermometers. A drop of water on the tender part of your wrist should be enough to indicate if the water is too hot. We wanted to be super-safe, and used a rubber duck that changed colors on the bottom if the water was too hot. Little man loved it, and it didn’t cost a fortune.

Car bottle warmers. They’re nowhere near as convenient as they claim to be, and they take forever to warm up your baby’s bottle. Skip ‘em. Just stop by a gas station and ask to use the microwave for a few seconds if you’re on a long trip. You should stop with baby every two hours, anyway. Car rides are hard on little spines.

Baby powder. It’s messy, a breathing hazard, and doesn’t do anything worth looking like you dumped a bag of powdered sugar on yourself for, even if it smells nice.

A stockpile of newborn or size 1 diapers. Newborns grow at an unbelievably fast pace. Your little one (unless you had a preemie) is likely to grow out of small diaper sizes after just a package or two. Buy what you need at this age – even if the sales are really good.

Baby seats that rhyme with Dumbo. The problem? Babies don’t have the muscles they need to just relax sitting up yet…it’s a torture device. A constant workout. I’ve never met a baby who didn’t cry while using one.

White noise machines for your baby. Just turn on the fan, run the air conditioner, or find a YouTube clip of white noise for baby. It’s miles cheaper and equally effective. My son hated white noise. His noise of choice was the radio, set to an oldies station (The Beatles). Not every baby is going to like white noise.

Over the door baby hangers. It’s a child, not a jacket. Seriously. (Who invented these things?!)

Baby perfume. Babies have a natural scent that’s deliciously sweet and cuddle inspiring. Don’t cover it up. And besides, I’m fairly certain baby isn’t going on any dates in the near future…

The Baby Mop. Sure, it sounds like a great idea…you can turn your little crawler into a cleaning accessory. But then you have to hug her. And isn’t child labor illegal?

Diaper stackers. Give up already – diapers will be everywhere you don’t expect. You’ll need a few in each room, and a portable stack should always come with you. Besides, if you try to pull one from these contraptions in a rush, you’ll be cleaning up diapers from all over the floor, as well as baby poop.

Cheap diapers. If you love blowouts, try to save cash here. I’m a big fan of adjustable all-in-one cloth diapers, but when we did use disposables, we learned the hard way (can anyone say blowouts?) that cheaper is definitely not better – for your wallet, your baby, or the laundry machine.

Diaper pails. They’re a great idea in theory, but bags are overpriced, they don’t really block the odor, and they can get pretty messy.

What You Do Need.

I’m sure there’s more useless junk out there, but let’s move on to something more important. The list of what you actually need. You’ll probably add a few items to this list, or decide that a few aren’t really necessary for you, but here’s what I think you’ll need to survive your baby’s first months:


  • 6-8 receiving blankets
  • 1 baby blanket
  • 1 crib monitor (only if your place is more than 900 square feet, or is a split level
  • 1 crib (convertibles are great – my son is using the full bed size of his baby crib these days)
  • As many onesies as you can possibly accumulate without looking like a hoarder, for every size
  • 2 portable changing pads (Koala Baby and Skip Hop make great ones.)
  • 4 fleece footie jammies
  • 4 sleep sacks
  • 4 dress outfits
  • 4 long sleeve shirts
  • 4 short sleeve shirts
  • 8 pairs of pants or shorts
  • 4 sweaters
  • 2 jackets
  • two dozen baby clothes hangers
  • a dresser
  • 5 cloth bibs
  • 2 washable plastic bibs
  • 1 stroller
  • 1 baby carrier and compatible car seat
  • 1 activity mat
  • 8-12 bottles
  • 1 bottle brush
  • 1 bottle sterilizer (although you can always just boil the bottles or use the dishwasher…)
  • 2 ice cube trays for storing baby food when little one starts solids…they’re the perfect portion size!
  • 1 package of diapers for every size (Buy more as needed. Somewhere around 3-4 months they start to grow a little slower and you can stock up more if you choose.)
  • 1 rocking chair (not every parent agrees, but little man loved being rocked to sleep and it made our nights easier. Less back pain, more rest for everyone.)
  • 1 Boppy pillow (great for feedings, “sitting” time, etc.)
  • 5 teething toys
  • 4 pacifiers
  • As many toys as you’re willing to clean, store, and play with (Notice I said you, not your baby.)
  • Baby books and board books galore (I’m a big fan of early literacy.)
  • A babysitter, because that little one is going to be much happier if you and your partner are getting the time you need together, too.
  • A smartphone that takes great video and pictures: Memories are what really matters with your little one. Make them count.
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