After several months of raising our little girl, we have a decent handle on what we need and what we don’t. And with a few friends who have first babies on the way, I thought I’d alleviate any worries about startup costs. Babies don’t have to be expensive. In the beginning, all they need are:
1. clothes, and not that many
2. diapers and wipes
3. a place to sleep
4. a way to get nourishment
5. a method to carry your baby
6. personal care products
Wait, no baby bath? No $800 glider? What about play mats and sound machines? Remember, we are talking about essentials. Here’s my humble opinion on what you need to get by if you aren’t planning to spend thousands of dollars to get set up. We’ve been keeping notes so that we can make this an ongoing series every few months to cover what we are using throughout the stages. I’ll write more about what worked for us in three month increments, but for now, here is all we needed to get started in the first days and weeks of life with a newborn.
Depends on how often you wash and your access to laundry inside the home or not. We found about 5 footie PJs to be sufficient for a fall/winter infant. Of course we have clothing coming out of our ears, though, because of generous friends and family. Our little love’s wardrobe is infinitely more stylish than my own so we are trying hard to get her in those clothes more often. I think I can spend an entire post on what clothes to bypass for new infants but for now, I’ll say that we avoided jeans and shoes, anything with a buttons or snaps on the back or neck and chose zippers over snaps when we could.
Diapers and Wipes
You may need to try out a few types before you settle on what works for you and your babe. We are using cloth diapers and I don’t regret the decision. It’s fairly easy, once you get used to washing every second day. We also use flannel wipes and water when she is changed. For us, this decision meant a one time cost. We haven’t done the side by side comparison of electric and water costs when cloth diapering, but we were committed to trying them out and have been extremely happy with Bumgenius one size all-in-ones. Needless to say, whether you cloth diaper, use disposables, or one of the hybrid varieties, there is no getting around the cost and need for diapers.
Bedding and a Place to Sleep
Whether you decide on a co-sleeper, bassinet, bed-sharing, or crib, a safe place to sleep is essential. We borrowed a mini co sleeper to start. Two sets of sheets worked for us. Unless your newborn spits up frequently or has diaper blowouts, (in which case you probably want to reevaluate what type of diaper you are using and how many outfits you need) you may not need more than 2 sets of sheets.
Crib bumpers are not only unnecessary, they are not recommended for babies due to safety concerns…blankets are also a no-no. It shocks me how many photos of nurseries show crib bumpers and big blankets hanging from the side of the crib.
A Way to Get Nourishment
Whether boob or bottle, there are very few things that are needed to feed your baby. I’ll be the first to say that breastfeeding is not always free, and in some cases, when factoring in nursing bras, lactation consultants, pumps, milk storage containers, nursing pillows, and various other items to soothe your potentially chapped skin, the costs can add up quickly. In terms of sticking to the basics, formula and bottles; a breast (or two), and/or a pump as needed can get you going.
A Method to Carry Your Baby
After living in Africa, and observing mothers, I imagined one day I would also be able to just strap my baby on to me with a piece of fabric or a towel and go about my day. I was far too nervous to try something that felt so haphazard (even if it wasn’t), so I borrowed a Baby Bjorn. We also received a few Moby wraps as gifts. James felt a baby carrier fell into the ‘essential’ list, but it was a bit borderline for me in terms of being more of a ‘nice to have’ than an essential item. But if you want to leave the house and have a free hand at some point, a carrier (or stroller) will serve you well.
Personal Care Products
Fortunately for us and our babe, we didn’t have to deal with diaper rash early on and preferred to not buy creams until necessary. When needed, we used a California Baby rash cream which was given to us by a friend whose baby had good results with it, and we also used a sample size of Butt Paste, but we didn’t need these early on. My humble opinion is to not buy any to start and grab it if you need it. Amazon Prime or Amazon Mom can be a godsend if you can’t get out of the house. Most retailers stock a huge variety of baby lotions and potions, both organic and non, so if you have a local shop you prefer, you can always find one to suit your needs later. I’ve never been fond of chemicals in beauty products so I try to seek out pure products for my babe and try to avoid packaging as well.
What about baby oils and washes?
Newborn babies don’t actually need a bath (only spot cleaning, and water without soap was recommended to us) for a few weeks after birth. No need to wash off the vernix either. It’s good for their skin as they adjust to the outside world. Most babies do not actually need moisturizers either. I’m baffled by the aisles of baby toiletry items in stores. But then this is coming from someone who is equally baffled by the aisles of adult toiletry and beauty items as well so don’t take my word for it. If you are a new parent or expecting and the thought of which baby toiletry items to pick is overwhelming, know that you can probably bypass 99% of it and your little one won’t miss a beat. In terms of what you need in those first weeks, the same wash cloths in your closet will work just fine for your little one. No real need for hooded duck towels, though they are pretty cute. If needed, a mild soap like Burt’s Bees will work. And a little goes a long way. At 8 months, we are still on the same bottle.
How about baths?
We started out with a hand me down super bulky bubblegum pink bathtub from a friend. Not only was it an eyesore ( my friend knows I’m forever grateful), it took up half of our tiny apartment. Before obtaining it, we looked into options like the Puj tub, but our bathroom sink was too small for it and our kitchen sink was too big. Instead we got a large bath sponge. We read about people using a towel (for leverage) in the sink with an infant, or just holding your baby in the shower or bath. James is good at this and therefore has become the go-to guy for baths. I’m a bit too nervous about squirmy babies made even more slippery with soap! For when our little love is bigger, and because we are passing the massive pink tub back to our pregnant friend, we bought the Prince Lionheart folding bath which we still love.
So that’s it. I realize I’m simplifying things immensely, but I would be curious to hear what others think? Was there anything else you needed in the first weeks after your baby was born? (Besides sleep!) This is about all we used to get started.