What Do I Really Need for a Newborn Baby?

When you’re expecting for the first time, it’s hard to know just what you’ll need for your little one. And, candidly, with so much stuff for sale, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to create a baby registry. As an experienced parent (of three), I’ve learned quite a bit about what you do and don’t need for a newborn baby. Here, I’ll help you nail down some baby registry essentials so that you can stock up on what you need (and avoid what you don’t). Spoiler alert: a wipe warmer may be nice, but you can do without one.

What Will My Newborn Baby Need?

Here’s the thing about brand-new little people: they require all of your time and energy, but they don’t need tons of stuff just yet. You’ll need a safe place for your baby to sleep, of course, whether that’s a full-size crib in the nursery or a smaller space like a Pack and Play. If you’re planning to have your baby sleep in your bedroom to make night feedings easier, you can start with the smaller portable crib or bassinet next to your bed. If your baby sleeps happily in that space, you might be able to go nine months to a year before you need to acquire a bigger crib. Either way, you’ll also need tight-fitting sheets approved for use in the baby’s sleeping area. It’s a good idea to have at least two or three fitted sheets in case of an accident—and trust me, they do happen!

Young mother holding her baby in the bedroom
You’ll need a safe place for your baby to sleep (Image Source: Shutterstock

The Pack and Play is handy because it also functions as a travel crib, play pen, and in some cases, a diaper changing area. It’s also easy to fold and store in a small space when you’re not using it.

Speaking of a changing area, you’ll definitely need one. If you have space for a full changing table, they’re a great place to store diapers, wipes, and clean clothes. If space or money is tight, you can change your baby right in the Pack and Play. Just be sure to lay a clean towel underneath your little one so that you don’t make a mess of the sleeping area. You can also buy a soft foam changing pad to use just about anywhere. I keep an extra on our first floor so that I don’t have to take the kiddo upstairs to change every diaper. I lay it on top of our washer and dryer, but you could also park it right on the floor.

It’s a great idea to invest in diapers, wipes, and diaper cream, like Desitin. A word of caution on the diapers: don’t go crazy buying them in newborn size. My babies grew out of them in about two weeks and moved onto size 1s. You may want to buy a few packages of size 1 diapers to have on hand in case your little guy or gal isn’t shy about eating and gaining weight. When buying diapers, it’s a great idea to ask an employee about their exchange policy. Often, you will be able to exchange a box of unopened diapers for the size you need if you’ve stocked up or had been gifted too many of an undesired size.

More Baby Registry Must-Haves

Have you decided how you want to feed your baby yet? If you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’ll want to invest in a few comfy nursing bras and nightgowns, as well as nipple cream and soothing breast pads. Also, did you know that under the Affordable Care Act, all expecting mothers are entitled to a breast pump? Ask your OB/GYN to help you obtain yours.

If you’re pumping or using formula, you’ll definitely need a good supply of baby bottles with slow-flow nipples (for starters). Again, babies are kind of unpredictable, and you can’t say for sure whether your kiddo will take to a certain bottle or nipple, so don’t buy too many. You may want to buy a few different kinds and see what your baby prefers. None of mine cared much so long as they were getting fed, but all babies are different! Don’t panic if your baby refuses to use a bottle or nipple that you thought they would love, give it time and don’t be afraid to switch products if you need to.

Ask your OB/GYN and your child’s pediatrician about formula varieties before buying. Formula is great stuff, but it’s so expensive. One of your doctors may be able to give you samples to try with your baby. Two of mine were much too gassy and miserable on the original formula, but they did great when I gave them the sensitive tummy variety.

You’ll need an approved car seat for your baby, of course—in fact, many hospitals won’t let you leave without one. Note that your baby needs to rear-face for several years in most states. Check out these great tips for buying a car seat. I found it helpful to have an infant car seat carrier stroller for those early trips to the pediatrician and the park.

Child Car Seat Buying Guide (Interactive Video) | Consumer Reports

When it comes to bathing your baby, there’s nothing you absolutely need to buy. You can easily give your little one gentle sponge baths using a soft washcloth and warm water for several weeks. When you’re ready to move to the bathtub, I recommend a baby bather that you can lay the baby on until he or she learns to sit up. You’ll also want to buy some gentle, tear-free baby shampoo and moisturizing lotion to protect your baby’s delicate skin, hair, and eyes. And while you don’t need an adorable hooded towel, they do make for the cutest bathtime photos ever.

How Many Newborn Clothes Do I Need?

Here’s the deal with baby clothes: they’re tiny, they’re adorable, and they’re good for a few months at best. When I gave birth to my first, friends and family sent us tons of stuff, including many super-cute newborn outfits. To this day, I feel terrible about how few of them we used. As an exhausted new mom, I dressed my baby mostly in one-piece footed jammies for the first few weeks (okay, months) of his life. It was winter, I was recovering from a C-section, and I just felt like we both deserved to be comfy. He also outgrew all the teeny newborn duds by about three weeks, so I had to put them away. Of course, I did save them all in anticipation of a second pregnancy down the line, but my second baby was too big for most of them too.

lifting her baby up and playing with him.
Your newborn baby needs cozy and comfy outfits (Image Source: Shutterstock)

When you’re registering for clothes, I recommend adding just a handful of newborn-size clothing, along with plenty of 3-month and 6-month sizes. Your newborn baby needs cozy and comfy outfits: onesies with snaps at the bottom, one-piece pajamas, and warm socks. If you have people in your life who are excited about your little one, I can almost guarantee they’ll buy all kinds of cute outfits for photos and special occasions. Focus on buying newborn essentials so that your baby has clothing for everyday wear.

I’ll admit it; I generally thought pregnancy was a drag. I generally felt exhausted, grouchy, and sore. Stocking up on cute baby must-haves helped me to stay excited about welcoming a new member to our family. So relax and enjoy creating a registry full of adorable and useful stuff for your kiddo.

What are your newborn baby’s essentials? What did you use the most? What would you do differently the next time? Let me know in the comments below.