Baby and Kids

Baby Essentials: What You Actually Need (and What You Don’t) The First Year

When you have a baby, there’s so much to do. From prepping the nursery to stocking up on essentials, and of course, the cute, tiny outfits, it’s hard to resist the urge to buy (and register for) everything.  Babies are tiny, and they need less than you think they do. But when it’s your first, you buy the cute outfits and even baby shoes that they’ll likely never wear. So today, I’m breaking it all down by what you need, what’s nice to have, and what you don’t need when bringing home a new baby. 

Sleep (essentials)


Crib sheets (3)

Mattress: This is soft, breathable, and eco-friendly. 

Mattress cover (2) 

Budget-friendly blackout shades: I wrote a whole blog post on how amazing these are. They are very affordable, easy to install (just need scissors) and make the girls’ rooms pitch black for naps.

Swaddle (2)

Wearable blanket (2): I love these and these once baby starts sleeping on their tummy.

White noise machine: I started with the rohm which is great on the go, but this one is the best for baby’s nursery.

Baby monitor: You could use any monitor, but this one is amazing – we have one of each of the girls. 

Pajamas and gowns: These are stretchy and fit longer than any other brand – so soft (ideal for sensitive skin) and both the legs and arms have attached covers for baby’s feet and hands. And every purchase gives back to Alex’s Lemonade! Use this link and the code Moss15 for 15% off. I also love these gowns (and these too). It’s nice to have a mix of all three. 

Pottery Barn Kids


Shop now

Sleep (nice to have)

Bassinet: This is great to have but not a must. I rented the SNOO for Kate and really liked that it wasn’t another big item we had to store or sell once we were done with it.

Weighted wearable blanket: This was wonderful for the swaddle-to-blanket transition. 

Dimmable touch light: I love this because it’s just under $17, the charge lasts for months, and it’s easy to use. Great for middle-of-the-night feeds and changes. 

Crib skirt: You will only use this until the mattress is lowered all the way, so it’s nice to have but purely decorative.

Glider: You could get by without one of these but I really loved ours. 

Sleep (what you don’t need)

Pillows, bumpers, and a baby quilt. Baby needs a flat place to sleep without anything that might put them at risk. 


Feeding (essentials)

Bottles: I started out with 5 oz. bottles but since you’ll only use those for a few months, I’d just order the larger ones that you’ll use the first year.  We had 6 bottles and that felt like more than enough. 

High chair or lobster seat: I love our lobster seat since it takes up zero space, but it’s such a pain to clean. Margot used the Stokke high chair and it’s nice because it’s now her chair at our dining table, but it chipped quite a bit and a few pieces had to be replaced, and adjusting the straps is a huge pain. Not sure it’s worth the price tag. This high chair is a lot more budget-friendly, turns into a play chair, and it’s so, so easy to clean. I bought an extra set of straps (they pop on and off so easily) and wash them maybe once a week. 

Silicone tableware: We have 2 suction bowls, 2 suction plates, and 2 sets of spoons. 

Silicone bibs (2)

Burp cloths (2 packs):  These are simple, affordable, and absorb liquid well.

No-spill straw cups: I skipped sippy cups since straw cups are better for baby’s muscles. We started practicing with this (with water) when Kate was maybe 6 months old (or so?) and both girls love them.

Bottle brush: The easiest

way to clean a bottle.



Shop now

Burt's Bees

Burp Cloths

Shop now

Feeding (nice to have)

Instant water warmer: I used both the Brezza formula machine and water warmer, and am team water warmer for a few reasons. It’s less expensive, smaller, and easier to maintain. This is one of those you could live without it but why would you want to especially at 3AM sort of items. Water comes out at the perfect temp – just add formula, mix, and done. 

Flannel wipes: I have two packs of these and use them to wipe the girls hands and faces after they eat. We rarely use paper towels – maybe one roll every few months? Reusable wipes forever. 

Feeder: I used this to introduce both girls to solids. If you feel anxious about choking, it’s a nice food intro. 

Bath and Diapering (essentials)

Bath: When Margot was born, I started with a sink bath, then transitioned to this, and then needed a larger tub once she outgrew that. I would recommend a sling tub since it will last until baby starts to sit up. I love the Eurobath but it’s sold out, so that’s why I’m recommending the sling.

No slip tub mat: You’ll want one of these once baby can sit up in the tub. 

Changing pad

Diapers: These diapers aren’t cheap but I love them. I’ve tried every eco-friendly option and they all feel like paper, while these are almost as soft as fabric. Great for sensitive skin, too. Worth the splurge. 


Diaper Balm

Frida kit: At the very least, you definitely need these nail clippers, but I use everything. 

Tubby Todd Essentials: The best products for bath and skin. The all over ointment is a life-saver and saved my friend’s daughter’s sensitive skin. 

Diaper Pail: These are so gross but diapers have to go somewhere. Pro tip: keep it in the bathroom since that is where poop belongs. 

Organic Washcloths: These are soft and budget-friendly.

The First Years


Shop now

Bath and diapering (nice to have)

Wipes dispenser: I struggle to not call this an essential but you could technically get by without it. But just try getting wipes out of anything else while holding a squirmy baby down. So…it’s pretty essential. 

Waterproof changing pads: Again, you could technically get by without these but it wouldn’t be pretty. I kept one of these in our diaper caddy and one on top of Kate’s changing mat at all times. 

On the go changing pad: This soft, easy-to-clean pad is wonderful on-the-go. I keep it in my car always. Highly recommend it.

Bath and diapering (what you don’t need)

Baby bath robe: Is your baby lounging around in a robe? No. 

Baby towels: They’re nice to have but you can definitely use a a normal-sized, soft towel. 

Newborn bath: You’ll use this for such a short time. Just invest in one tub that works until baby is sitting up. 

Gear and baby stuff (essentials)

Stroller: I love our VISTA. as a single but it was admittedly not my favorite as a double until Margot started using the piggyback. The basket is awesome (so much storage) and it’s easy to use, but it’s very heavy as a double. 

Car Seat: I used the MESA with Margot and really liked it, but prefer the Nuna Pipa LX since it’s under 6 lbs and has a built-in cover. If you don’t plan on traveling, the Pipa is the lightest infant car seat out there, but it is important to note that it cannot be installed without the base – it was perfect  for our pandemic baby.

Padded, foldable play mat: I love this play mat. It’s so soft and cushy – great for babies who are learning to sit up, but wonderful for toddlers, too. It’s ideal for small spaces since it folds up, too. Some could argue that this isn’t an essential but you need somewhere soft to put your baby, and this was by far my favorite space for my girls to play. At ages 1 and 3, we still use it. 

Swaddle blankets: You don’t need more than 4-6 swaddles. Muslin swaddles are nice but this swaddle blanket is super stretchy and soft. And actually stays tightly swaddled, but only use it for play time and supervised naps. The one downfall is that you have to hang dry it, but it’s worth it

Car mirror: I have to call this an essential because being able to make sure baby is safe in the car is essential, right? 

Pacifiers (6-8): I started out with BIBS and love them, but purchased some from Mushie a few months ago. They’re basically the same but also have a really sweet scalloped design.

Natural stain remover and detergent: I love all things Puracy – have been using in for about 6 years. 

If you live somewhere with a real winter, you’ll need one of these, too.


Gear (nice to have)

Dockatot: Yes, this is a splurge and even though we used it all-the-time, you don’t have to have it but it’s at the top of my nice to have list. The toy bar is a great addition, too. 

Bouncy seat: You can live without this but I wouldn’t recommend that. 

Diaper caddy: This was been one of my most-used items the first six months. I use it to store burp cloths, bibs, diapers, and extra outfit, changing pad, and pacifiers. We keep it by our bed at night and downstairs during the day. Makes having all the essentials on-hand which is a must when you have two.

Toy safety straps: Again, essential for babies who throw things (so all babies). These are easy to wipe clean and keep toys, cups, etc from ending up on the floor. 

Electric UV Sterilizer: This is budget-friendly and great on the go. 

Pacifier clips: I am starting to feel like all my “nice to have” items are in fact, essential.

Foam play mat: Yes, a second play mat, but it serves a different purpose. This one is quite large and very easy to clean, so it’s great for a larger play area. We love it and have it out in our living room.

Gear (what you don’t need)

Moses basket: Unless you’re getting a moses basket type of bassinet for baby to use at night, skip this altogether. It’s pretty but not necessary. I did use it all the time when Margot was a baby, but with Margot running around, it never felt ideal to have Kate in the bassinet. 

Multiple seats: A friend told me I’d want a baby seat on each floor but I found that unnecessary. I splurged on a beautiful wooden seat for Kate and it was such a waste. Get the baby bjorn and call it a day. We used it all the time – it works for the first year and folds flat when not in use. 

Diaper bag: Yes, you heard it here first. You don not need a diaper bag. Sure, they can be nice to have but a backpack or tote will do. I really like our diaper bag but it’s usually easier to us a tote and throw one of these pouches for each of the girls inside. 

Toys and Books (essentials)

Lovevery Play Gym

Montessori play kits: Resist the urge to buy a bunch of toys. These are all your baby needs

Books: You’ll want to start with at least 10. Books are one of those things you can’t have enough of – I recently bought 15 more and switch them out every so often. Some of our favorites are:

Brown Bear
I love any book by this author
Goodnight Moon
My favorite kindness book
We have a bunch of books from this series
Odd Dog Out

Toys (nice to have)

Explore and more bee: Both girls loved this! It’s great for motivating babies to crawl and keeps both babies and toddlers entertained. 

Activity center: I really wanted to avoid getting one of these because it’s really best for baby to be on the floor until they’re ready to sit up or stand, but it makes life so much easier. I really tried to limit the time the girls spent in there to 10-15 min – it allowed me to do dishes, run to the bathroom, etc.

Double Sided Mat: Both of my girls loved this. It has a velcro strap and magnets that makes it easy to attach to the car, stroller, or anything, really. 

Teether: My girls both loved this, too. Bonus: it attaches to the silicone straps and is a great stroller toy.

Manhattan Toy


Shop now

Clothes (essentials) 

Soft, simple outfits: This is where I made some serious mistakes. Margot had so many outfits and barely wore any of them. You’ll want 4-5 cute outfits per stage at most, and then maybe 8-10 cozy basics, depending on how often you do laundry. Kate had at least 4 of these and wore them most days. They are super stretchy and last forever. 

Soft, easy to wear one-pieces: These are soft, come in cute patterns (or solid basics) and just so easy. 

Hats (4 or so): Shocker, I loved our Lou Lou hats the most. 

Fleece Booties: These are warm, cozy, and actually stay on baby’s feet. When Kate outgrew her first pair I bought a new pair in a larger size, and we’ll use them again this fall.


Clothes (what you don’t need)

Lots of cute outfits that baby will wear out. Get maybe 2-4 (max) per stage. My girls just wore soft, cozy basics at home. 

Baby shoes: They can’t walk. If you must get a pair that’s fine, but socks or soft booties will do. 


Babyproofing (essentials) 

Baby gates: at the top and bottom of the stairs
Attach all cabinets, shelving, and consoles to the wall



Leave a comment
  • Thank you so much for putting this together! It’s helping build out my registry, which felt really daunting!