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Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need?

Getting ready for a new baby can be overwhelming. There are a gazillion products for babies. And if you’re like me, a new mother with zero experience with babies, you probably have no idea where to start. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on things you may never use.

My son is now 3 months old and we’ve learned a lot about what is really useful and what you can simply do without. In this post I’m going to tell you everything we’ve learned (so far) and I’ll share what we’re using and why.

Nursery

Crib – Even if you get a Co-Sleeper or bassinet or if your baby sleeps with you a crib is still great to have. It’s a safe place to put your baby down during the day.

Bedding – You’ll want at least two fitted sheets for the crib, one to use and one to swap out when you’re doing the laundry. We use a mattress pad as well.

Changing Table – In my opinion this is the single most important piece of furniture in the nursery. Trust me, you’ll be spending a lot of time here! This is one of the few things that we bought new. I deliberated quite a while over which table to get. Most changing tables have a shelf and I couldn’t quite figure out how that was useful. Then I came across this table Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? with three drawers and a hamper. I absolutely love it! It’s so convenient to have the hamper right there to toss in poopy clothes (hello blowouts!) and the drawers are perfect for storing diapers.

Swing – I know every baby is different, but for us our swing has been a lifesaver. Baby Frugal loves the motion and will take nice long naps in it. It affords me luxuries like taking a shower or eating a meal uninterrupted. We bought this papasan swing Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? because it looked very comfy and safe and it’s one of the only ones that can use an AC adapter and batteries. For some reason most models only use batteries which can get expensive if you use it a lot.

Comfy Chair – Whether you are bottle feeding or nursing you’ll want a nice comfy chair to feed your baby in, preferably one with padded side arms and an ottoman or foot stool. We have a leather club chair and ottoman that we moved into the nursery. I didn’t know it at the time but leather is nice because I guarantee you will get spit up on the chair and with leather it’s easy to wipe off.

Mobile – This is one thing that I didn’t really see the point in getting initially. But we got one as a hand-me-down, a very cute one with fire hydrants and Dalmatians that you wind up. Baby Frugal loved it! When we’d turn it on he would laugh and squeal in delight. The problem was that the wind up mobiles only last like 3 minutes. So I’d put it on and go do the dishes. But every three minutes I’d be heading back to the nursery to wind it up again. Suck! So Mr. Frugal found this one Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? that takes batteries and runs for 20 minutes before shutting off. Hallelujah! I can now get through the dishes! Note, until babies vision gets better and they start to track on objects (about 4-6 weeks) they may not respond to the mobile.

Feeding

Pump – If you plan to breastfeed I recommend that you also have a pump. You may need it for a variety of reasons: Pump at work, establish and maintain your milk supply, build up a supply to freeze for an emergency. Medela Pumps are supposedly the best on the market. Initially I used a First Years until it lost suction (after about 2 weeks) and then switched to a Medela Pump In Style Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need?. There’s no comparison.

Frugal tip: Medela pumps cost $250-$350 new but you can find them on Craigslist for up to a third of that. I got mine for $100.

Bottles/Nipples – If you are going to breastfeed but will need to introduce a bottle, I highly recommend the Breastflow nipples Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need?. They are designed to be close to the shape of the breast and mimic the sucking action that an infant uses on the breast. This is supposed to minimize the risk that introducing the bottle might confuse your baby and cause him to reject the breast.

Bottle Rack – These really are useful in allowing airflow into the bottles to dry them properly.

Bottle Brush – You’ll want to have a bottle brush dedicated to washing bottles. I prefer a brush with bristles only.

Burp Cloth – It never occurred to us to buy burp cloths, but after a couple days of frequent changes due to spit up I ran to my local Babies R Us to get some. I like flannel ones as they quickly absorb liquid.

Frugal tip: You can also use old hand towels as burp cloths as they are the right size and absorb well.

Pacifiers – I know some babies never take them but my son really likes his. It’s probably a good idea to have at least one handy. I’ve used both Soothie (which they use in hospitals) and Mam. I prefer Mam as they’re contoured to his face more than Soothie so they don’t fall out as much.

Diapers/Changing

Diapers – In the first couple years this will be your greatest expense. You want one that is effective (containment), comfortable and inexpensive. By now we’ve tried most major brands, here’s our experience:

  • Pampers – Like them, but frequent blowouts in back (worst kind because it gets everywhere). Expensive at .19/diaper
  • Huggies – Like these too, but frequent blowout around the legs. Also expensive at .19/diapers
  • Up and Up (Target brand) – These are by far the best AND the cheapest! Score! We’ve had very few blowouts with these diapers. And they are a great value at .14/diaper
  • Kirkland (Costco brand) – I’ve read positive reviews on the Costco brand diapers and they are the cheapest at .13/diaper. We haven’t tried them yet as they don’t carry size 2 which is what my son is currently wearing.

Wipes – You’ll go through a lot of these too! I really like the Kirkland (Costco) wipes. They are all natural, contain no alcohol and also aren’t too wet. Wet bottoms lead to diaper rash. They’re also the least expensive along with Target Up and Up wipes.

Diaper Rash Cream – Keeping your babies bum dry is the best way to avoid diaper rash but it’s almost inevitable that they’ll get it to some degree. I keep a tube on the changing table so anytime I spot any signs of diaper rash I just dab some on.

Hand Sanitizer – You won’t always be able to run and wash your hands after changing baby so I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on the changing table.

Diaper Pail – Oh how I love my diaper pail! I’ve heard some people say they’re not necessary, to those people I say your olfactory system is failing you. We got this one Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? at our baby shower and I love it. It holds a lot and does a great job of containing odor.

Health and Hygiene

Bath Tub – Once that umbilical cord stump falls off you’ll be able to bathe baby. Some people use the tub or the sink, but I really like having a baby tub as it helps keep baby propped up while you’re washing him.

Baby Cleanser – You’ll want a mild cleanser like Johnson and Johnson that won’t irritate your babies eyes.

Baby Towels – Baby specific towels aren’t totally necessary, but they are more lightweight and have a little hood to keep their head warm.

Nail Clippers – It is amazing how sharp a babies nails are and how fast they grow. They have a tendency to scratch their faces so you’ll want to be diligent in keeping them trimmed and filed smooth.

Thermometer – You’ll want to keep one of these on hand. You don’t want to have to run to the drugstore in the middle of the night if you suspect your baby is running a fever but aren’t sure. And your Pediatrician will want to know their temperature when you call. If you get a digital thermometer you’ll want to test it out. You don’t want to have to figure it out when baby is sick and fussy.

Clothing

Daytime – You’ll be changing diapers frequently so you’ll want something that gives easy access to that region. So far the only thing I’ve dressed Baby Frugal in is a onesie.

Sleep – It’s not a good idea to put your baby down to sleep with blankets so you want to dress him warmly. I dress him in long sleeve footed pajamas, but you can also get sleep sacks Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? that fit over a onesie.

Hats – If you’re having a baby in colder months you’ll definitely want to invest in some knit hats to keep baby warm.

Travel

Diaper Bag – There are a ton of diaper bags to choose from. We got the Diaper Dude Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? as a shower gift and it is awesome. It looks more like a messenger bag so my husband doesn’t mind carrying it. And it has lots of space and compartments and comes with a changing pad. I stock my bag with diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer wipes, an extra pacifier, a blanket and burp cloth, extra outfits, diaper rash cream and granola bars for a healthy snack when I’m on the go.

Baby Carrier – We got the Ergo Baby Carrier Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? as a shower gift and it is great. It doesn’t hurt my back at all which is a common complaint I’ve heard about other carries.

Car Seat – You won’t be able to bring baby home without one. We use the Chicco Keyfit 30 Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need? and we’re very happy with it.

Stroller – Most strollers are kind of bulky and heavy. We have one but never use it. Instead we got this car seat carrier Preparing for a Baby – What Do You Really Need?. It’s lightweight, opens with one hand and folds flat. It also has a basket underneath that holds quite a bit. I use this all the time.

When I was preparing for our baby I found a lot of advice on what to get, but very little explanation on why I need it or how will I use it so I hope you found this list helpful. But also keep in mind that every baby is different so what works for one may not for another.

And before buying anything new I highly recommend that you checkout Craigslist. Babies quickly outgrow things and so there is an abundance of gently used items that can be found for a fraction of the cost. Also, when I had my baby my hospital sent me home with a number of things like a manual breast pump, a cooler bag for milk/formula and some hygiene items for baby. So call the maternity ward where you plan to deliver and find out what they provide to avoid purchasing a duplicate. Finally, check with any friends with small children to see if they have any hand-me-downs. Parents are typically very happy to pass on items they are no longer using to expecting parents.

Related Posts From The Yakezie:

You CAN Afford That Baby – Ten Money Saving Tips @ Personal Finance By The Book

Frugal New Parents – What to Buy For a New Baby @ Money Funk

Parents: Before You Name Your Baby, Learn How to Spell @ Len Penzo dot Com

22 Comments

  1. Thanks for your helpful folks for new parents to be! Hope all is going well with your newborn.

  2. It is important that when baby is put to bed that it doesn’t wake up prematurely. Allergy safe fabrics are a must. If the baby wakes with a rash, it is not only getting robbed of important sleep time, but it is going to wake up seriously unhappy.

  3. Congrats on your three month old son! You definitely wrote this detailed post from personal experience. Thanks too for mentioning my post.

  4. Check out babycheapskate.blogspot.com. They do a weekly round up of the cheapest and best diaper and formula deals and tell you when to use your coupons for a “stockupportunity.” I rarely spend more than $.10 per diaper (and sometimes free!) using their guide and not being brand exclusive.

    I also HIGHLY recommend the Ultimate Crib Sheet. It snaps to the crib bars after you put on the regular mattress and if you have a blowout in the middle of the night, it’s super easy to unsnap and remove without wrestling with the mattress. I put two on, and then the regular sheet, so I always had a back up.

    I didn’t see any books on your list, but I found “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp to be invaluable. My babies, who were and are polar opposites in every way, both responded really well to the soothing methods outlined in the book. There is also a DVD for those sleep deprived parents of newborns who can’t make the time to read. :)

    You’re right that every baby is different in some of the things they like, so buy second hand! My first LOVED the swing, hated being “worn” in a baby carrier. My second LOVED being worn and screamed the second I put her in the swing! I had a sling style carrier and that was really great for me because I could nurse her discretely in public and she’d happily nap in it, and it worked from birth through, well, now at 2 years old. It lets me hold her hands free. The Ergo is great, too, and you can get an infant insert for it.

  5. Wow. Just wow. I’m not expecting anytime soon or at all for that matter but I could never have thought of all this on my own. I mean someday I want to have kids but looks like I would have to work in some extra savings way before that date ever actually comes :) I loved this post!!

  6. Congrats on the new baby! :-)

    Wow. What a list! I wish I had this when my kids were born.

    All the best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  7. For us, a changing table was absolutely NOT necessary — although I do understand that people have different preferences! We used a dresser (that was a hand-me-down that I painted white) with a contoured changing pad on top. I put inexpesive (From Target) hanging cubbies over it for wipes, diapers, rash cream, etc. Voila! A really cute, practical and inexpensive ‘changing table’ that has grown with him! It is still the dresser in his bedroom and he is now 6! Just a regular ‘ole (free!!) dresser!!

  8. I have to say, my necessary/unnecessary list is a bit different!

    We’ve never used a changing table – the floor (with a towel/changing mat) is much safer, particularly once baby can roll over, and is also extremely portable for outings/holidays etc. We keep the nappies, wipes, cream and so on on our general-purpose shelving.

    In a similar vein, I’ve never seen a nappy bag I liked, but I’ve got a great bag now that’s a bit bigger than my old handbag, but has 2 compartments, one is a big one for changing kit (and it has an expandable zipper to fit more stuff in when we’re out all day). It means I just use the same bag whether I’m going out with or without my little one (she’s 14mos now).

    “Car Seat – You won’t be able to bring baby home without one.”
    This depends whether you’re going home by car; we walked home from hospital – it rather surprised the midwives when I whipped out my baby sling – since it was only a mile or so, and I really wanted the fresh air. (We’d also intended to walk to the hospital, but left it a bit too late, and I didn’t feel comfortable to walk with contractions every 3 mins or so.)

    Anyway, this is a really good list of things you should *consider* for your baby :o)

  9. Just goes to prove how differnt folks need different things. In my case at both mom and grandma age, a changing table was never used. Baby was changed all kidns of places and I find them to be dangerous. If necesary we put a mat on top of the dresser. My frugal musts also include cloth resusable wipes and cloth diapers (which will also provide you wth burb cloths, lol). A really really good stroller was a must and probably still is if you do any walking at all, which it sounds like you dont do-I lived in an urban villiage type of location. so my requirements would also be a backpack and/or sling. And although they may not be recommended as much thses days, the darn boundy seat/walker was a lifesaver for me-oh and I don’t see one of those little syringes for getting gunk out of the nose on your list?

    • Barb, thanks for the tips. I do have a thing for getting gunk out of the nose, it’s one of the hygiene items I mentioned that I received from the hospital. I haven’t had to use it so far so I personally couldn’t really recommend it. I do know it will be needed eventually.

      Also, I am curious why you make the assumption the I don’t do any walking at all. Do I write like a couch potato? LOL

      • No, but most people dont really Walk these days. my kids were raised in an urban villiage where we walked to get things. In other words, we didnt drive somewhere and get out of the car and walk (which it sounds like you do, maybe??). so I walked to the grocery store, to the library. to the playgroup, and so on. And in that case, in my personal experience, a really good heavy “pram” stroller is an absolute must. It also allows baby to completely lie down and sleep.

        Heck, you cant be the mom of an infant and ebe a couch potato too, I dont think, !

  10. Oh boy, You have bought so much stuff and you call yourself frugal.

    It must have cost you atleast upwards of 5,000$ for all that stuff right. And your baby is just 3 months old.

    • No Raghu, if you follow the tips at the end of the article (did you even read that far?) you can get by spending far less like we did.

      Thanks for the constructive comment.

      • Definitely not! We shopped second-hand, bought at garage sales, thrift stores, and Craigslist, got hand-me-downs, received gifts, and spent considerably less than $5,000 on gear, clothes, and the like in our first kiddo’s first year. We spent even less on the second. I bought a new crib, carseat, a few incidentals, and specialized nursing gear. Almost everything else, including cloth diapers, were second hand.

        Oh, another fantastic baby item? NoseFrida, the grossest thing you’ll ever love. You literally suck the baby snot out with a tube (it has a filter.) It is SO much more effective than the bulb style snot sucker.

        What did cost a lot was medical care and trying to nurse! Both of my healthy kids had medical issues that required specific care, both costing us thousands out of pocket above our health insurance premiums. Our son required an orthopedic prosthetic that cost $3k. We didn’t take that kind of expense into consideration when budgeting that first year, to be sure!

        I spent easily a grand trying to breastfeed, between the lactation consultant visits, vitamin supplements and teas, nursing bras, rental of a hospital grade pump, special nursing system (a tube that taped to the breast to add pumped milk while the baby sucks), nipple shields to get the right latch, various bottles until we found one he’d accept, etc. We ended up saving money on formula when he weaned at 4 months due to low supply, dashing my dream of being an extended breastfeeder!

        • Ah, I’ve heard of NoseFrida and I hear it is awesome. I’m just waiting until I need it but I do see it in my future.

          Hospital costs are shocking! I do hope your kids are better now!

          I swear breastfeeding is harder than labor! We never could get the proper latch and now I’m just pumping and feeding via the bottle. 4 months is awesome though and your kids are fortunate to have a mom that would go to such herculean efforts to breastfeed.

          • Breastfeeding isn’t as hard once you’re in the routine, but getting there takes a lot more hours and dedication than labor! I mean, if you’re not really interested, someone else can feed the baby. Not so with labor! Labor, you start and you know it will end and you’ll be done. Plus, you can get an epidural. Breastfeeding, you get soreness in some of your most sensitive parts and then let someone pinch on them repeatedly, finish and have to try again 3 hours later! I got blisters and actually bled from my son’s poor latch. And that’s without thrust or mastitis! Before having kids, I had no idea that breastfeeding could be painful or that I’d have to actually work to make it work.

            My son weaned at 4 months with the low supply. He had been kicking and screaming when I tried to nurse for over a month. My daughter, even with low supply, loved to nurse and we only weaned fully at 21 months, even though she was supplemented with formula after feedings from 4 months on! At 4 months, exclusively breastfed, she lost weight and had to go on a very expensive, calorie dense formula and medication to regain weight.

            You just never know what will work best, and as much as I wanted to be an exclusive nurser for both of them, I had to be realistic. My husband told me that the first rule of babies is feed the babies, and don’t feel guilty as long as the first rule is being met. That helped a lot!

            As unpopular as the idea is, I will formula feed from the start if we have another baby. In my case, with low supply with both babies, I anticipate that it would actually save us money, as crazy as that seems!

  11. We did without a changing table (towel on bed/floor) or swing.

    Mobile, pump and all bottle-feeding equipments/accessories were used minimally.

    Pacifiers got some usage, but we later stopped using them to improve breastfeeding.

    Our “diaper pail” was a regular garbage can with lid.

    We used wipes minimally, mostly when going out. We use water and kleenex (I prefer Puff Ultra–soft and durable).

    We started with Pampers, transitioned to gDiapers, than to cloth diapers. It adds about 3 loads of laundry per week, and each load takes more cycles thus is more involved than regular laundry. But we saved money and perhaps a little bit of the planet.

  12. Great list – we’re expecting a baby any day now and have purchased or been given most of these items. We are lucky that both of our sisters had babies last fall so we have a lot of hand-me-downs and we were able to buy a few things off Craigslist (changing table, the crib we wanted new in the box for about 30% less, a universal car seat stroller). However, I am a little concerned about your tip on buying a breast pump on Craigslist. From everything I have read and heard from others, the only type of pump you should buy used is a hospital grade one made for multiple users, like the ones available for rent at hospitals. Most pumps available for purchase (like the Pump in Style) are designed for single users. There is more info on the FDA and La Leche League websites.

    http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/HomeHealthandConsumer/ConsumerProducts/BreastPumps/ucm061939.htm#4

    http://www.llli.org//llleaderweb/LV/LVJunJul04p54.html

    • I agree.

      1. Changing table doesn’t seem to be a necessity
      2. Breast pump is better bought new.

  13. MY wife just had a baby and it’s our 2nd. You really do have a much better handle on what is necessary and what isn’t. We got a crib last time but we didn’t really need it because our daughter just slept in bed with us the whole time. It leads to less snuggle time with your honey but my wife felt comfortable having her right there with us. There no hard and fast rule to what’s right and wrong. You have to figure it out yourself. One thing was getting things second-hand. That was insurance for our budget.

  14. I know this was originally posted almost a year ago, but I thought I would share some of what we have learned over the span of 4 children. Like some of the others have said, we did not use a changing table either. We had one for the first 2, but it simply took up space in the nursery. We usually laid a towel or blanket on the couch, bed or floor and changed the baby there. Who wants to lay on a piece of wood, even when padded? We also never had a diaper pail. We used 1 grocery bag every day to hold all the wet diapers. As soon as a stinky diaper was put in, or at the end of the day, we would tie it up tight and toss it out in the garbage can (or the dumpster when we were renting). Even in the summer months, if the bag was tied up tight, we did not have a terrible smell coming from the garbage (unless we put something else stinky in there). We also learned that babies fingernails are very soft, so soft that you do not need to cut them. You can peel off the excess nail with your own nail. This works until you can start using regular nail clippers on them.

    I am not trying to knock your post at all. You did a great and thorough job. I just wanted to share what we found worked for us, without some of the items you found indispensable.

  15. I have a daughter who is 3 and a half now and my husband and I realized we really didn’t need a lot of items. She has grown out of almost everything. The longest she has used an item so far is the big girl car seat, which she will probably only use until the end of this year. Then she can transfer to a booster, but I will probably keep her in the car 5 point harness as long as she fits.
    But we had a changing table, that eventually was used for mainly storage. We never had a crib but we did have a playpen that was also rarely used. What was helpful was the little rockers and bouncer and the exersaucer. She liked using the rocker and bouncer for taking naps and when I needed to take a shower. I unknowingly had been practicing attachment parenting and she would sleep with us because it was easier for me to breastfeed at night. I would say even if you are breastfeeding and are a stay at home mom, bottles and pumps are still essential. When I was 2 months postpartum my wisdom tooth got infected and I needed surgery and thank heavens for bottles at that time.

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