10 Must-Have Baby Items for the Minimalist Mama


If you’ve been to Babies “r” Us recently, you are well aware of the overwhelming number of baby gear choices. 67 different types of strollers? Does my baby really NEED a crib, a pack n play, a bouncy seat, 3 different types of car seats, a stationary jumper, and a swing?

A recent article put the “new baby cost” estimate at anywhere between $3,900 and $27,500. In our world, $27,500 could replace both our vehicles with nice, used cars, so there is no way we’d be spending that on a child who isn’t going to remember whether or not her bouncy seat was a hand-me-down! Even $3,900 is a loooot of cash.

In general, we are constantly striving to simplify our lives and minimize our possessions, and the baby gear department is an area in which we can seamlessly continue this minimalism. As we are getting closer to welcoming baby #6, I’m taking stock of our baby inventory and figuring out what we really need to bring baby home. These are the 10 things that are important to me to have for baby’s first 6 months – everything else is pretty much unnecessary, in my opinion!

Disclaimer: These are actually all things I own, love, and use in my own home. While many of the links are affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through my link, I would never recommend a product I didn’t truly adore. This post is not sponsored by any of these brands – I’m just sharing my favorite things, as a mom of 6!

1. A car seat.

Unless you live in a city that is completely walkable, a car seat is a necessity. They won’t let you leave the hospital without one (and be sure you check the expiration date – most seats expire 6 years after the date of manufacture, although some are expiring closer to 10 years now – because the nurses check that before they let you go!) The best bang for your buck is an all-in-one convertible seat. It holds kids from 5 pounds to 65 pounds, and it can be used rear-facing or forward-facing.

The downside of a convertible is that it’s not easily removable once it’s buckled in, and you may prefer a bucket seat. Personally, I like the convenience of being able to buckle baby into her seat in the house and carry it into the car when everyone else is ready to go, so I use an infant seat and switch to the convertible when they hit age 1. It’s really a personal preference, but if you want the least amount of expense, go with the all-in-one. Graco makes great, affordable seats. We also have 2 Diono Radians because they have a very slim profile and are perfect for fitting 3 car seats across in a row. (They are a little pricier than the Graco convertibles, but when we compared spending an extra $200 on slimmer seats vs. buying a whole new car with an extra row, it was no contest!)

You should be able to find a great seat for around $100. We had to buy a new infant seat with our last baby because ours was expired, and we did an “open-box” deal on Amazon (the seat was a return but had never been used and will still in the original plastic) and saved $30.

2. A baby wrap for babywearing.

I discovered the convenience of babywearing with my oldest, and have since explored various carriers. I can confidently say now that I prefer a stretchy wrap like this one from Zelie Wraps (okay, so I’m exceptionally partial to this one because I actually designed it! Which means it’s my very favorite because I had direct input on the pattern.) I also have a Boba Wrap in Stardust. For an older baby, a structured carrier like an Ergo is going to be more versatile and comfortable – while you can use an Ergo for a brand-new baby with the infant insert, I really prefer to just use a stretchy wrap for a tiny one. The cost of a stretchy wrap is not much more than buying the infant insert alone, and the stretchy wraps are just so much more snuggly and cozy.

My first outing with baby Ellie in the Boba wrap!

Why do I need a baby wrap if I have a stroller? Should I get one over the other?
We do own a stroller (an older version of this one that we’ve had for 7+ years.) While some people find a lot of value in the all-in-one, jumbo strollers, where baby’s carseat can click in… we’ve just never felt the need for it, nor have we ever had the trunk space for a bulky stroller. I find the stroller more useful for 9+ months when baby is more interested in his surroundings. I prefer to keep the infants closer to me – less of a risk of being exposed to a sneeze, and the baby wraps are hands-free, so it makes grocery shopping much easier! My babies always fall asleep in the wrap, which isn’t the case with a stroller, so we have been able to do concerts, games, and even a wedding reception with a sound-asleep baby who wasn’t even noticed by most of our fellow event-goers. In our house, babies usually get worn and toddlers usually get the luxury of riding in a stroller. 😉

2. A place for baby to sleep.
If you are planning on bed-sharing, you may not want any kind of special bed for baby. But you may find it really helpful to have a safe place to put baby for naps where you don’t have to keep vigil, and your bed may not be the safest place once baby starts to roll (one of mine rolled over at 6 weeks!). I personally prefer a Graco Pack ‘n Play playard – but a fancy one is so not necessary! I like the ones that have two levels, a bassinet level and a playpen level, so I can lower it when baby is a little bigger, but the ones with the changing table, the rocker, the diaper holder – all extras that you and baby can live without (and probably won’t use anyway – we almost never did.) Even the one in the above picture is a little too accessorized for me, but sometimes the ones with more accessories are actually cheaper (crazy, I know! That’s how we ended up with a napping attachment on ours.)

(You will definitely want Pack ‘n Play sheets to keep the mattress clean – 2-4, depending on how often you plan to do laundry, and some kind of mattress pad – the PnP “mattress” isn’t terribly soft so as not to be a suffocation hazard, and a pad will not only keep it clean, but also make it more comfortable for baby.)

3. Swaddle blankets.

These are super cute options from Hudson BabySwaddle Designs, and Margaux and May. There are sooo many choices in swaddle blankets now, and the prints are much, much cuter than they were even 5 years ago! I recommend the muslin ones – they are gauzy and lightweight enough to be used in the summer to keep baby comfortably snug but not too warm at night. (I put winter babies in a sleep sack over their jammies at night if it’s really chilly in the house, but usually warm jammies plus a swaddle blanket and a light hat is enough.)

I would recommend having at least 3-4 blankets, but you can make it work with just 2 if you have other, non-swaddle blankets. I use them as nursing covers and to cover the car seat when heading out into the sun, and pretty frequently they end up being burp cloths, so they get a ton of use! I ditched the flannel receiving blankets completely with my last baby in favor of the gauzy swaddle blankets because these are just more versatile.

4. A bouncy seat.

Or somewhere to set baby while you’re using the restroom!

This is something we used more frequently after adding more kids, because setting baby on a blanket on the floor was no longer a safe option. 😉 This is the one we purchased when our last baby was born – it was under $25 brand-new on Amazon, which was less than a lot of the used ones we were finding on Craigslist.  Some people prefer a Rock ‘n Play (I have 2 friends with colicky babies who swear these are magic!) Some babies really love the baby swing. My oldest would only nap in the (hand-me-down) swing. These tend to be significantly more expensive, though, and with each of these, you never know until you get baby into it whether or not he or she will love it or hate it. The bouncy is a lot smaller investment. If you want to try a swing, see if you can borrow one from a friend for a couple days to make sure baby will actually like it!

A lot of people are really against any kind of “baby apparatus.” Just remember that these are tools in your parenting toolbox – things you can pull out when needed. Just because you own an Exersaucer, aka “the circle of neglect”, doesn’t mean baby will be spending 3 hours a day in it! But it’s the perfect place for a baby to sit for 15 minutes while you eat lunch. And just getting one is enough if you are really trying to minimize baby gear.

(a photo I shared on Instagram of my baby in her Exersaucer, with the caption “the circle of neglect? more like the circle of awesome.”)

5. Burp cloths.


The Carter’s ones are cute, but if you’re going for strictly functionality, the Gerber cloth diapers are fine. You just need something to catch the deluge of spit-up. Baby travels with one 100% of the time. If you are even the slightest bit crafty, you can make them yourself with flannel and a sewing machine. 🙂

6. Diaper rash cream.

It’s inevitable – babies get diaper rash. Someone gave me Triple Paste at my baby shower and spent several minutes raving about how great it is. She warned me that it’s pretty expensive but “so worth it.” I thought to myself, it’s butt cream – aren’t they all the same? 5 baby butts later – NO! They aren’t. 😉 I’ve used Boudreaux, Desitin, and sample tubes from various brands, and none of them match up. It’s recommended by pediatricians and dermatologists. And after using it on 5 babies, we’ve just opened our 3rd container of it, ever – so it lasts FOREVER.

7. A simple first aid/grooming kit.

Like every other department, the “baby first aid” department of any store is filled with so many things that you just. don’t. need., or things you may need someday but not right now. After throwing away countless containers of unused medicines and lotions – trust me, stick with the basics. If later you feel like you need to add an item (like Orajel teething gel – we’ve only used it on one kiddo), you can always get it then. Save your money now!

My recommendations:
– Burt’s Bees Baby WashShampoo & body wash in one bottle.
NoseFrida. Babies get snotty and it has to come out somehow! The bulb syringe from the hospital works pretty well, but any bulb syringe you can buy at the store is worthless. Enter NoseFrida.
Saline drops to loosen up that congestion.
– Infant Tylenol. While we only treat a fever with meds if there is a lot of discomfort, it’s inevitable: baby will spike a fever overnight one night, be inconsolable, and during a call to the on-call pediatrician you’ll get the advice of “treat with Tylenol and bring her to the office in the morning.” (Motrin isn’t recommended for babies under 6 months; use both of these under the advice of baby’s doctor! Fevers in very young babies always warrant a call/doctor visit.)
A thermometer. Even though a rectal thermometer is supposedly the “gold standard” for taking a baby’s temp, we have never had a medical professional use one! They usually do underarm, or more recently, a forehead thermometer.
Pacifiers. MAYBE. Some babies won’t take them, some parents choose not to use them. I always buy 2 different styles just in case I have a baby who is interested, but sometimes they’re more trouble than they’re worth. 😉

That is really, really it for the grooming kit. There are a few other things that may or may not be useful, like VapoRub for chest congestion, baby nail clippers (we just use the regular ones that the rest of the family uses and they work perfectly fine!), baby lotion (some people make lotion part of the after-bath ritual, and others may not depending on their baby’s skin needs), cream for eczema – but you may not need or choose to use any of it. Buy as needed.

8. Diapers & Wipes.

I prefer Luvs; everyone has their personal preference. Some people hate Luvs and would rather use Huggies; some people stick with something more natural like Honest Company or Seventh Generation. For wipes, I typically use Huggies – I used to be a devoted Up & Up mom (Target’s store brand), but Huggies are more “grippy” and I tend to use fewer for a dirty job.

The way you buy diapers can really affect your budget! You don’t ever have to pay full retail price if you watch sales and shop on Amazon. For the longest time, I would stock up on diapers and wipes when Target had their semiannual baby sale – they usually offer a $25 Target gift card if you spent $150 on baby items, plus an additional $10 gift card for every 2 boxes of diapers/wipes you bought (So for every $150 I spent, I usually got $55 back in gift cards). Now, I typically do all my diaper shopping on Amazon. If you are a part of Amazon Family, you get 20% off all diaper subscriptions through Subscribe & Save. (You also get 15% off ALL other Subscribe & Save items if you add 5 or more a month – I love Subscribe & Save!) Plus, it’s incredibly awesome to have boxes of diapers just show up at your door on the 1st of the month.

You might also choose to cloth diaper; if so, I would recommend going to Nicki’s Diapers and researching there. (You can buy cloth diapers on Amazon, as well, but you need to first decide what kind of cloth you want to do – all-in-one, prefolds, etc. There are a lot of options!)

Either way, you need something to contain baby’s waste. 😉

9. Baby clothes.

Baby needs something to wear! But a designer wardrobe is really not necessary, nor are drawers and drawers crammed with outfits. Most babies outgrown the newborn clothing really quickly (within a month), and even sizes 3mo and 6mo don’t tend to last long. The bonus of this is that almost brand-new baby clothes are very easy to find on consignment, at garage sales, or even gifted from friends who are no longer having babies.

If you want to purchase brand-new outfits, this is one niche where Amazon really does not have the best prices. If you are lucky enough to have a Carter’s store/outlet near you, they have great sales and usually a 20%/25% off coupon for your entire purchase. (Don’t pay full price!) Other stores with darling and inexpensive baby clothing include Kohls, Target, and Walmart (they all carry Carter’s brand, along with their own store brands.)

I would suggest having at least 8-10 outfits and 4-5 sets of pajamas or sleep & plays so you aren’t forced to do baby laundry more than once a week. (I usually do ours separate in a gentler detergent.) I love the baby gowns because they make diaper changes in the dark so much easier – no snapping and unsnapping while half-asleep! In the winter, I prefer footed clothing (or thick tights) because baby socks get lost way too easily. 🙂

10. Something to feed baby.

Obviously, right!? If you breastfeed, you might want a nursing pillow, and obviously if you bottle feed you will need bottles and a bottle brush (plus formula). I’ve done both, and have preferred regular pillows to a Boppy, and found extras like a bottle warmer unnecessary. Sometimes baby needs more than feeding basics, but in general, start with the bare minimum and work your way up if you think a particular item would be a huge asset to your feeding routine.

What About Everything Else!?!?

A diaper bag? A diaper pail? Hooded towels? A changing table? You might find these things helpful, and you might find them totally unnecessary – again, YMMV, but these are things that definitely don’t belong on a minimalist baby gear list. 🙂 If you want a full, overwhelming list of ALL THE THINGS BABY COULD POSSIBLY NEED, check out this one on Parents. They break it down into “must haves” (which are still debatable) and “nice to haves”. A lot of it will depend on your space (do you have a dedicated nursery? Do you have a multi-story house where a bouncy seat on the main floor would come in handy? Do you have a bathroom big enough to store a baby tub or would it be easier to go without one?)

Everything on this list (other than the recurring purchases like diapers & wipes & formula) can be purchased for about $500 or less. That’s quite a savings from the $3900+ quoted in the first article! If you save $50-60/mo during your pregnancy, that’s enough to cover all the necessary items, assuming someone doesn’t have a baby shower for you or you don’t receive any gifts. Subsequent babies will be much cheaper because you’ll already have most of the stuff you need! Pretty much all we need for our upcoming Christmas baby are a replenishment of the first aid kit and newborn diapers. (I also like to buy a new outfit or two for each new baby.) 🙂

(Also, almost all these things – aside from a car seat – can be bought used. This is an obvious, great way to save a lot of money.)

I would highly recommend creating a baby registry. Not only is it a great way to let your friends and family know what you would most love for baby (because usually, people will ask), but you usually get a completion discount coupon for all items that are unpurchased by the time baby arrives – with an Amazon registry, the completion discount is 15%, and you get a welcome box valued at $35. It’s also a great way to add the “nice to have but not necessary” items.
Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Baby Registry

I’d love to hear your thoughts – what do you consider indispensable for a newborn and what is just extra and unnecessary? Is there something you bought for baby that you never ended up using? Everyone has different opinions and experiences, and there is definitely no right or wrong answer. There’s a reason all the baby products on the market exist – someone thought they would be useful!


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