Marketers come down hard on new parents. As soon as the internet knows that you’re expecting, ads start showing up and emails start flooding in trying to sell you the latest and greatest baby gadgets. It upsets me that some marketers stoop so low as to make you believe that you’ll be a bad parent if you don’t have all these things.
I know because I believed them too.
But I’ve learned. I gotten all the stuff, had two kids, and I’m here to tell you what got used and what didn’t. I’ve learned that being a good parent has absolutely nothing to do with the baby paraphernalia lying around your house and everything to do with your willingness to lay down your own desires and serve that little human with a joyful heart.
Yes, the desire to nest is real. Yes, you want to have everything perfect before the little one arrives. But you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay to kind of figure it out as you go and wait until you absolutely need something to get it. I can personally attest that I got too much stuff for my babies in spite of my efforts to be minimal. Take a look.
(By the way, this is not a sponsored post. I’m not endorsing or getting paid to mention any of these items. Heck, they aren’t even affiliate links. I’m simply sharing what worked well for us and what I would do again. Enjoy!)
New Clothes. Rather than register for a bunch of new baby clothes, let other mothers know that you’re open to hand-me-downs. People usually don’t bring used clothes to a baby shower unless you ask for it specifically. But if you say something, you might find that the flood gates open and used clothes come pouring in. Carefully sort and organize the sizes and seasons you’ll need. It’s completely likely you’ll get more than you even need and you can donate some of it or pass it on to the next expecting mama. If you’re not connected to anyone with children to give you clothes, you still don’t need to register for a lot. Stick with larger items of clothing, 6-12 month sizes. Guests at baby showers can’t resist cute little newborn sleepers and onesies. You’ll likely get these whether you ask for them or not. If you get more than you think your little one will wear in the first month of life, return them to the store and use that money or gift card to buy diapers (if you’re not doing cloth. I did disposables for the first 6 months with Malachi and the first month with Shiloh before cloth.) Also, babies don’t need shoes until they learn to walk, so resist all those cute tiny shoes at the store and stick with socks for now. Trust me, they will go unworn. For further minimalist reading on this topic, here’s my “capsule wardrobe” suggestions for children.
Furniture besides crib. Changing tables are kind of nice, and I used one when I had one, but they’re so big. Truth is, you can change the baby anywhere. I love the space it saves by not having one. Bassinets are only used for the first 3 months or so, and at that age neither of my boys would sleep anywhere but my arms. So I’d ditch that too, or rotate one among a group of several friends. I had a glider for awhile, but found that I preferred a non-moving chair for breastfeeding before bed. So I just used a normal chair I already had and gave the fancy baby glider away.
Baby bathtub and bath toys. There’s a whole aisle at the store dedicated to bathing your baby. I think this is nonsense. You don’t need a cute towel or washcloth for baby if you already own towels and washcloths. Neither of my boys liked the bath enough to stay in it, so I ended up just giving them baths with me in the grown-up tub, or a sponge bath when I changed their diaper. Even if your kiddo loves the bath when they’re older, there’s no reason why they need special bath toys. Just throw some normal plastic blocks, food toys, or even tupperware from the kitchen in there and let them go to town.
Toys. Speaking of, tiny babies really don’t need toys. They do need stimulation, though. You don’t need to buy into every little stuffed animal and board book out there. You can create an environment that helps build baby’s brain using things you already have: playing cards can make a colorful mobile, sticks and leaves can be sensory, and nearly any kind of music will lull a baby to sleep (as long as lyrics aren’t inappropriate for children.) My kiddos love Josh Garrels and the Beatles because we expose them to music we actually like, not just the stuff that’s marketed as “kid music.” When the child is old enough to play with toys, I like to stick with simple, non-battery operated options. Here’s my full list of minimal toy suggestions.
Diaper Gene and wipe warmer. Seriously, these items are pretty gimmicky. Any trashcan with a lid will do for diapers. The best way to cut back on smell is to empty the pail often, and maybe shake some baking soda in there. And wipe warmers….unless you’re making your own wipes out of cut-up T-shirts and using the warmer to moisten them, I’m calling this totally unnecessary.
Diaper bag. While it’s true that you do need some sort of bag to transport diapers and changes of clothes, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary that you spring for one of those overpriced bags they sell at Babies R Us. Go the cheap route and use a backpack. You probably already have one! I use a backpack I found at a thrift store as my diaper bag. I think it cost me a whole $5. It’s large enough for everything I need, it has slots on the sides for bottles or sippy cups, and I love that I can carry it on my back while wearing the baby on my front, and still have both hands free. Over the shoulder diaper bags and baby-wearing don’t go together well…I found this out the hard way.
Car seat. If you have a car, you’re legally required to have one of these. And if you give birth in a hospital, you’ll need it to take the baby home. As much as I love used things, this is one exception. Buy a new car seat. Safety regulations are always changing and you want to get one that isn’t expired or recalled or been in a fender-bender. You can buy used to save money for almost every other baby item, but not this one. (But this doesn’t mean you need to spend $1,000 for the most expensive version at the store either.) I do suggest going to your local fire department and asking if they will teach you how to install it properly. Even the most high-end car seat is unsafe if it isn’t properly installed. Yes, I’m a nerd about this.
Crib or Pack n Play. Babies do need to sleep somewhere. With both boys I co-slept for the first month or so, but eventually I wanted my space back so we transitioned to the crib. Pack n Play’s are great for travel, and I don’t see why you couldn’t go minimal and use one for home too. They are so much cheaper and easier to transport than a traditional crib! Many also have an attachable bassinet as well if you really want a bassinet. At least this one can grow with them.
Stroller. This isn’t something you need right off the bat. It can wait until the baby is six months old or so, since most little guys would rather be worn close to you than pushed. However, one of my most prized baby items is my double jogging stroller. This thing allows me to do what I love to do: run with my kids. We run all kinds of places, and it’s sometimes easier than driving and dealing with getting in and out of the car. Not cheap, but if several friends want to chip in for this, it’s a beautiful thing.
Highchair. I know it doesn’t serve much of a purpose, but having a place to set the baby down in the kitchen, either with food or with toys, is a pretty nice luxury. We use our highchair at least five times a day. It’s a pretty simple concept. A highchair doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy. Ikea sells a perfectly good one for around $20. Crazy good!
Carrier. We love our Ergobaby. Still use it almost everyday. It’s our single most used and indispensable baby item. We used a Moby wrap with Malachi his whole babyhood until he was about one and with Shiloh when he was newborn. I recommend a wrap rather the Ergo infant insert, but once the baby is a few months old, the Ergo was our favorite. It’s so comfortable and easy to wear. It has a pocket for my keys, phone, and wallet, which is nice when I’m wearing a dress or running pants. When Shiloh was little, he loved the Ergo so much it was the only way we could get him to nap…those were long days…but we were glad we had this thing! It lasts, too! It’s strong enough to carry a kid up to 45 pounds, which means we still use it with Malachi sometimes on our backs, even though he’s three years old!
Diapers. Whether you do cloth or disposable, you’ll need these. They make a great shower gift. Wipes too. Lots of wipes! (We like Aldi wipes the best!) Unscented is best for sensitive skin. You’ll also need some sort of diaper pail (we just use a small trashcan) and pail liner if you’re doing cloth diapers (we use Econobum diapers and I think they’re still the best deal.) A washable wet bag to take with you places is also nice so you’re not using a plastic bag every time you change a diaper.
Bottles and spoons. Even if you’re breastfeeding you’re going to want a date night every now and then. And a good breast pump is necessary if you plan on working after baby comes. (I loved this pump. If you’re paying out of pocket like we did, don’t worry about the bag and extra gadgets that cost a lot.) We used Medela bottles for pumping and storing milk and both my boys preferred Avent bottles for feedings. Baby spoons are also really great for once the kiddo starts solids.
Swing. If you’re able to borrow one from someone, go for it! But until you know if your baby is a “swing lover” or not, I wouldn’t recommend buying one. Some babies love swings. Malachi loved it, and slept in the swing for about a month before we transitioned him to the crib. Shiloh, on the other hand, loved movement, but not of the swinging variety. He preferred to just be worn all the time. So since this item is so large, bulky, and expensive, I’m thinking it’s still mostly a Leave It.
Pacifiers. Someone gave us pacifiers, but neither of my boys took them. I tried…yes, I tried… I was pretty desperate at first to not be used as a human pacifier, but in the long run I think it’s awesome that I don’t have to carry them around me, worry about losing them and keeping them clean, and eventually breaking the habit.
Bouncer. Like the swing, this is something some kids might love more than others. We liked our little bouncer seat that a friend passed down to us. It sat in the kitchen and gave baby a nice seat while he was still too small for the high chair. While these things are cool and don’t take up much space, I’m still thinking it’s mostly optional.
Breastfeeding Pillow. I didn’t really use mine, but I know some breastfeeding mommies claim otherwise. I liked to prop my arm up with a normal couch cushion though. Since the ones marketed for breastfeeding are like $50, I’m calling this a mostly Leave It item. Opinions may vary, though.
If you’d like another good read on this topic, I recommend this post by Kathleen at Becoming Peculiar.
Have I forgotten anything? What did you find invaluable with your children? Anything else completely unnecessary out there that I left out? The bottom line is that children are born minimalists. They come into the world with nothing. They have you, and that’s ultimately all they really need.