Years ago, when I was pregnant, I asked my mom friends for advice. It seemed everyone—family members, colleagues, strangers on the internet—had opinions about baby registries, and the sheer amount of products to select from overwhelmed me. A minimalist at heart, I wanted to know the newborn essentials. What did I really need to survive that first year with my baby?
One friend sent me a carefully organized Word doc. Another shared a link to her old registry. Still another said, “Babies don’t need a lot of stuff.” This last response surprised me, and yet, since experiencing the newborn phase twice, I agree. Here are 15 newborn essentials for your first year with your baby.
1. Diaper Delivery
Order diapers through a subscription service such as Amazon Prime. You’ll thank yourself for thinking ahead when you inevitably run low, especially during the first few months when you’re changing diapers every two to three hours. Select your brand (our favorite is Pampers), size, delivery frequency, and bam! Diapers right on your doorstep. Just remember to adjust your order as your baby grows and diaper changes become less frequent.
2. Baby Wipes and Diaper Cream
Stock your diaper change station with plenty of baby wipes. Stash them in your bag, the stroller, and your car for the inevitable blowout emergency (it will happen at the most inconvenient moment, like when you’re already running late). Wipes are also great for cleaning sticky mouths and fingers. Our favorite brand is Huggies Unscented, as both of my kids have sensitive skin. Don’t forget the diaper cream—use at the first sign of a rash to soothe itchy, uncomfortable skin.
3. Feeding Supplies
Whether you’re breastfeeding, offering bottles of formula or pumped milk, or feeding your babe through a mix of methods, equipping yourself with the proper tools is key. With my sons, I breastfed and used Philips Avent baby bottles with pumped milk. However, all babies are different and you may want to try different bottles with your baby before committing to the one your baby prefers. Same thing with formulas: You may need to try a number of different brands if your baby has digestive or other issues. If you’re a mama-to-be who plans to pump, check with your insurance to see which pump you can order for free with a prescription from your OB-GYN.
4. Easy Outfits
All those snapping pajamas are great in theory, but when you’re tending to a cranky baby at night, speed is key. That’s why I loved using 2-way zip-up footie pajamas for my babies during the cooler months and simple onesies when it was warm outside. Of course, stylish baby wear is great for special occasions, but for everyday, easy-to-put-on clothes will become your best friend.
Be patient with your changing body—and your heart. No matter how many baby books you’ve read or how many children you have, your first year caring for this baby will be an adjustment. Nurturing a newborn can feel incredibly painful, what with the sleep deprivation and healing body. It’s also a beautiful time to discover your tenderness and your strength. As you move through this year, allow yourself to be a beginner. Let yourself go slowly. You’ll need to reorder your rhythms again and again to accommodate your little one.
6. Baby Sleep Guidance
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth was the most helpful book I found for managing baby’s sleep. It also makes a great makeshift pillow for when you fall asleep on the floor of the nursery pleading with your baby to “please, for the love of God, just go to sleep!” No matter which sleep method you follow, some nights will be hard because of teething or sleep regressions. I had less time to read about baby sleep with my second son, so I was grateful for the down-to-earth sleep guidance I found through Huckleberry, an app you can use to track your baby’s sleep and wake windows.
7 – 9. Thermometers and Infant Pain Reliever
Your child’s first fever is a milestone you’ll never forget. Stock up on infant Ibuprofen and Tylenol now to avoid a painful, panicky middle-of-the-night run to Walgreens later. You’ll also want a forehead thermometer for quick checks as well as a rectal thermometer to get an accurate reading for conversations with your pediatrician.
10. Baby Nasal Aspirator
Also known as the weird thing that sucks boogers out of babies’ noses, baby nasal aspirators are a godsend. Sure, they’re gross, but you’ll absolutely want one for sick days. You may even want to spring for the rechargable version. (They’re also great for extracting Goldfish from your child’s nose on their second birthday to avoid an expensive ER visit—yikes! Note: This is not pediatrician recommended.)
11 – 12. Car Seat and Stroller
Walks were key for my mental health in the first year of my second baby’s life. Whether you want to get out and about in your neighborhood or be adventurous and drive to a local coffee shop, you’ll need a good car seat and stroller. We used a Graco car seat with this click-to-connect stroller, and they served us well for the entirety of our second son’s first year. Use your gear and get out of the house to preserve your sanity.
13. Crib and/or Portable Crib
A bassinet in the bedroom only works for so long. When you’re ready to have your room back, say around 6 months per the AAP sleep recommendations, a crib or Pack ‘n Play with a tightly fitted sheet and free of bumpers, blankets, stuffies or other objects is the safest place for your baby. (Some families choose to co-sleep; please see your pediatrician for expert guidance.) We love this simple crib from IKEA and used this portable crib for travel and moments when we needed a playpen.
Early motherhood is incredibly isolating; community is the antidote, the reminder that you’re not alone in your motherhood journey. Friends, family, and neighbors who come to your door bearing food and smiles, who hold the baby for you while you shower and/or nap, who ask, “How are you really doing?”and actually listen are to be treasured. Open the door. Invite them in to meet your baby. Allow yourself to be seen in your real, messy humanness and watch relationships take root. Ask for help. Lean into the gifts of love and friendship.
Your baby’s first year will stir up a whole host of emotions—happiness, worry, guilt, wonder, hilarity, exhaustion—many within the same hour or day. There will be days when the mess becomes too much, or your baby resists naps, or you simply wish you could have a parenting do-over. There will be “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” days. And when those days inevitably happen, I hope you remember to give yourself grace. Perfect moms don’t exist, no matter how much Instagram might make it appear so. But you can be a good mom. You can apologize and set things right when you make mistakes. You are a good mom who deserves the same love and care you pour into your baby.
The first year of motherhood will alter your life irrevocably. Sure, there are a few tools that can help make caring for a newborn easier. However, some days, the most essential thing your baby will want is you.