Inside: Minimalist baby essentials according to a minimalist mom. Five kids later, these 9 things are what I consider to be the absolute necessities, and all you really need to be ready for baby!
The box showed up at my door a couple of months before my first baby was born.
Clearly, it was a baby shower gift, but I couldn’t tell what it was right off the bat. I opened it curiously.
It still took me a minute to figure out what it was.
A wipe warmer.
I’d never even imagine such a thing existed. Silly me, I thought babies just needed to learn how to cope with cold to lukewarm wipes on their cute (though stinky) little bottoms.
But my brother and sister-in-law swore in the card that it was a “life-saver”!
I shrugged. Worth a shot, I guess??
So after my baby was born, I pulled out that wipe warmer. I plugged that sucker in and warmed up those wipes.
And what luxury my baby lived in those first few weeks of her little life! Never a cold wipe to touch that cute bum.
…It lasted for all of one pack of wipes.
Then the button stopped working properly, and loading a new pack seemed like too much of a pain. I read about the risk of bacteria building up in the warmer (moisture plus warmth = no good).
Bye-bye wipe warmer.
From that point on, our collection of baby things continued to shrink with each new baby. And I didn’t even become a minimalist until after baby #3!
When we finally had our fifth baby earlier this year, we had given away most of our baby items the year prior. Living in 1200 square feet with soon-to-be SEVEN people, we were forced unlike ever before to decide what was truly essential and what we could do without.
Only the bare minimum of baby items would fit in our tiny home.
Plus, you look at things quite differently when you’re forking over you own hard-earned cash instead of racking in the gifts at a baby shower.
So what made the cut? Here’s what I considered to be absolutely essential to bringing another baby into this world, what I couldn’t live without.
We did purchase a couple items that are not on this list, but I’ll share more about that in a bit.
Related: Minimalist Baby Registry Basics – Your Guide to Bypassing Baby Clutter
9 Minimalist Baby Essentials I Would Never Go Without (5 Babies Later)
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This list is primarily about the physical items you need for a baby.
I didn’t include formula, bottles or breastfeeding supplies on this list, but I think it goes without saying that nourishment for a baby is pretty dang essential, yes?
1. Car Seat
This is a given: they won’t let you bring a baby home from the hospital without it.
Thankfully, a friend gave us her gently used car seat with this last baby.
When you’re considering receiving a second-hand car seat, only take it if you truly trust the person giving it. You need to know that a used car seat:
- Has never been in accident, and
- Isn’t expired.
On to the infant car seat versus convertible car seat debate.
We’ve done it both ways, and the value of the infant car seat speaks for itself. While you technically CAN live without an infant car seat, having one is pretty awesome.
When you’ve just gotten your baby to sleep in the car seat and you can carry that sleeping baby from the car to the house without waking him up? You’ll thank your lucky stars you have the infant one.
My only advice here is to look for one that doesn’t weigh a thousand pounds (the one we have is crazy heavy even without the baby!). Test them in store – the weights vary like you wouldn’t believe.
The Chicco KeyFit 30 seems to be the most popular choice, though I can’t speak for it personally.
But if you had truly limited resources and needed to invest for the long haul, I would recommend a Diono Radian car seat.
It can be positioned rear- or front-facing, and you can fit three across in the back seat of a small car.
I know because we rocked the three car seats across the back seat of Toyota Corolla with three kids until we were forced to buy a van with baby number four.
2. Snap N’ Go Stroller
You are going to be hauling that baby around a lot of places. Before, I would cart the infant car seat around on my arm (probably why I switched to a convertible car seat sooner rather than later – ouch!).
When someone gave us THIS snap n’ go stroller to use with the infant car seat, I was amazed at how much I missed.
They are lightweight and easy to set up.
You can easily store it in the trunk of your car to whip out at Target or the doctor’s office. Set it up and plop that seat in for easy and instant portability.
You won’t regret having one.
You can usually find these second-hand, but you’ll be using it a long time – almost a year, so don’t hesitate to invest in one on Amazon or at a consignment store.
Plus, it will seriously save you some back and arm problems from carrying that car seat around.
3. Diapers & Diapering Supplies
You can’t do without these! But what is truly essential in the diaper department?
Start with the diapers.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Huggies.
We tried Pampers briefly earlier this year because they were a gift. And can I tell you? I was convinced yet again that Pampers diapers are THE WORST!
The diaper straps come undone extremely easily, and they just don’t hold as much as Huggies do.
If you decide to stock up on diapers before your baby arrives, make sure to not get too many of one size.
You don’t know how much your baby will weigh at birth, and it’s impossible to predict how long they will stay in one size because body shape also influences diaper size.
Whatever you do, keep your receipts.
Along with the diapers, you’ll need:
- Wipes (these are the BEST)
- Diaper Cream (I love this non-toxic alternative to Desitin)
- A Changing Pad
With the changing pad, if you wanted to go truly bare minimum, stick with a portable changing pad like this one.
Then you can also avoid buying changing pad covers.
We ended up springing for this new diaper changing pad mostly so that the portable diaper changing pad could stay in my tote at all times (lest I forget to grab it and be without it at a VERY inopportune moment!).
We stored it under the couch in the living room.
You really don’t need a diaper changing table as the pad can live on a dresser, under a couch, or in a closet.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapering (Real Talk from a Former Fanatic)
Obviously, you’ll need clothes for your baby, but how many?
For the 0-3 month stage, it really depends on how frequently you want to do laundry. There are going to be A LOT of blow-outs, no matter what kind of diapers you use.
You’re going to be pretty exhausted, and you’ll have a ton of your own laundry to do as well. Baby spit up plus postpartum awesomeness plus breast milk equals a lotta laundry.
Keep in mind how much help you have and how much your spouse is willing to pitch in with laundry before deciding on how many baby clothes you consider to be essential.
We received an entire hand-me-down wardrobe for our fifth baby, and it was more than enough! While it was nice to go longer between loads of laundry, we really didn’t need that many clothes.
If I had to buy my own baby clothes all over again, I would purchase:
- 7 baby sleepers (with zippers NOT buttons)
- 12 onesies (long- or short-sleeve depending on the season)
- 8 pants
- 6 pairs of socks
You’ll be doing laundry every 4-6 days, but you can definitely manage with that amount. You’ll be in the next set of clothes before you know it.
(Also, just so ya know, this is the absolute best way to fold baby clothes.)
Related: 15 Clever Baby Clothes Storage Ideas for Small Spaces
5. Swaddle Blankets
You definitely need some type of swaddle blanket for those early newborn days and weeks. Make sure you watch the nurses swaddle your baby during your hospital stay: they’re experts.
With my last baby, a friend mailed me her muslin swaddle blankets.
Where have these been all my mom life?!
I limped along with the Velcro kind, and other friends swore by the miracle blanket. But the kind I used for four babies were a poor substitute in my opinion for the real deal swaddle blankets.
You can find similar to the ones I used HERE.
6. Somewhere for Baby to Sleep
Notice I didn’t say crib.
I wouldn’t consider a crib essential. To be honest, we never set one up for this last baby.
We did end up purchasing a brand new pack and play for the early weeks and months, which can be used in other rooms in the house as well.
If you go this route, make sure to choose one with a high level insert for the first couple months so that you don’t have to bend so far down to reach the baby.
It’s a loooong way when they’re sound asleep, and you risk waking baby up.
7. Sling or Baby Carrier
I never managed to figure out how to use a sling. I wish I had because all the moms walking around with babies on their hips seemed to love them.
Personally, I fell in love with the Ergo baby carrier. It was the only one that didn’t kill my back after hours of wear.
My fourth baby lived in that thing! I’m not kidding – almost every hour I was awake and he wasn’t eating, he was in that carrier.
If you decide to go with the Ergo, you may also need the infant insert for the first 3-4 months. This may not be necessary for the newest model the Ergo 360.
8. Medical Supplies
There are baby grooming kits that include one or two of these items, but you’re better off buying the items separately.
You really don’t need all of the things that come in the kits.
All you truly need is:
I hope this isn’t you, but you’ll probably be using that thermometer more than you care to.
- A Rectal Thermometer
- A Nose Bulb
- Children’s Tylenol (only to be used over 3 months of age)
- Cotton Balls
The lubricant is essential for using the thermometer to take a rectal temperature, the most accurate method for infants.
Some parents swear by this snot-sucker, but it totally grosses me out. And I definitely wouldn’t call it essential.
We managed to survive countless baby colds using only the old-fashioned bulb sucker you can take home from most hospitals for free.
Cotton balls are useful for cleaning your baby’s eyes the first week after birth.
The fact that so few parents consider this to be essential for babies in today’s modern world completely baffles me.
I’ve watched friends tiptoe around their homes to avoid waking up their baby, and I just think to myself, “But why??”
We raised most of our babies in the city and in apartment buildings. There was absolutely NO WAY I was allowing neighbors (or a noisy husband or loud siblings) to ruin my hard work of finally getting the baby to sleep.
I just wanted to use my own home without holding my breath.
The peace of mind a noisemaker gives you is essential for new moms. Essential.
It takes the edge of your anxiety and allows you to live, talk, sleep, to do just about anything with peace of mind.
This one is around $20, and we’ve used it for ten years now, replacing once or twice as needed.
They last a few years, at least. Longer if you don’t let your kids touch them later on.
Related: How to Organize Baby Stuff in Small Spaces
3 Non-Essential Baby Items to Borrow, Thrift, or Swap
Beyond the minimalist baby essentials, I’ll admit there are a few nice-to-have baby items that can help get you through various ages and stages.
Hopefully, you’ll form a small group of new mama friends (or older ones, too), and you can pass these items around as needed.
If for some reason, no one in your friend group is having babies, you can always find these items inexpensively or free on Facebook Marketplace or in thrift stores. Consignment stores are another option, but they are far less affordable in my experience.
These items can take up a lot of room. If you have a tiny home like we do, try to stick to only one baby seat at a time.
1. A Swing
I didn’t have a swing for any of my babies until the last one. And it was nothing short of miraculous.
We were given this baby swing by a friend, and let me tell you: it was a LIFE-SAVER.
Apparently, babies like when you swing from side-to-side far better than back-to-front, at least in their early weeks. This swing can be turned to accommodate either option.
I’m told not all babies like swings?
But our baby slept in this one constantly. She outgrew it around 4-5 months old.
2. A Seat
Another great option for when your baby starts to sit up is some kind of baby seat that offers back support.
We’ve had various ones over the past ten years.
Back when the Bumbo seat was popular, we used it constantly from ages 4 months to 8 months.
That seat lasted through a few babies. Eventually, we found that our babies could start arching their backs and pop themselves out of the seat, making it a dangerous option as they grew older and more wiggly.
Bumbo Seats can easily be found an any thrift store or second-hand online.
With baby number 5, we opted for this floor seat, instead and loved having it as an option.
I wouldn’t however, consider it essential. We could have easily made do without it.
3. An Exersaucer
This one very nearly made it onto the baby essentials list: we absolutely love exersaucers.
We’ve used this exersaucer with every single one of our babies, and they all loved it!
It’s perfect for the 5-9 month stage. Before they start crawling, but when they want to move and play more than the floor can allow.
(This last baby absolutely despised being put on the floor for longer than ten minutes, no matter what we did.)
Particularly for babies who do not enjoy being place on the floor in any position – backs OR bellies – the exersaucer can keep them happy for at least thirty minutes or longer.
Just enough time to get things done like washing the dishes or fold some laundry.
Related: What Baby Stuff Should I Keep? Clear Guidelines to Help You Decide
Beyond Minimalist Baby Essentials: What’s Nice to Have?
Two other items that are nice to have are board books and a select few toys and/or teethers.
You can always borrow the board books from the library, but as babies grow, they can be tough on books. They will definitely chew on them if allowed to.
Eventually, it’s nice to have a collection of 8-10 board books.
Our favorite board books are:
The last two are Usborne books. FYI I buy Usborne books directly from Usborne (rather than buying from Amazon) because Usborne has a replacement policy where you can buy the same book at half price should anything happen to it.
Full disclosure: I also sell Usborne books, but mostly so I can buy them myself and get a discount!
You can find more classic board books in THIS post.
Babies don’t technically need toys, until they are older. If we hadn’t received hand-me-down toys with this last baby, I probably wouldn’t have replaced them.
The few toys we’ve enjoyed most are:
- A quality teething toy
- A small ball
- Mega Blocks
- A small stuffed animal or blankie
Related: 40+ Baby Essentials for the First Three Months
Do You Need More Than the Bare Minimum for Your Baby to Thrive?
“Need” is a challenging word because it’s entirely relative and subjective.
My husband and I were reminded again about the pressure having a baby puts on parents.
You’ll do just about anything to get your baby to do two things:
- Stop Crying
And you get so dang desperate, you’re willing to pay just about any amount of money for a gadget that promises to do one or both of those things.
This keeps the baby industry booming – us desperate parents.
My husband very nearly purchased this $500 contraption because it promised to allow babies to sleep safely on their stomachs.
When baby was waking up every 45 minutes.
The reality is? There often is no magic bullet.
Sure, some parents swear by THIS swing or THIS swaddler.
But that’s what worked for THEIR baby. And their baby isn’t your baby.
Some babies love swings. Others hate them.
Some babies love their car seats. Others scream just about every minute they sit in one (not fun – ask me how I know).
You could spend hundreds of dollars on baby products that will go unused, take up room and eventually be resold to another desperate parent for half what you originally paid.
Or you could hang in there and stick to the basics that parents have been doing for centuries.
Swaddle those babies. Walk with them, wear them.
And when you’ve reached a point of desperation, driving. (o.k. maybe parents haven’t been doing this one for centuries, but it sure can work as long as you don’t have a “I-despise-my-car-seat” baby.)
One thing I can guarantee: if you stick to these minimalist baby essentials, you’ll be glad you don’t have to store or get rid of them a year from now.
Babies are enough work without having tons of stuff to take care of, too. And that’s what being a minimalist is really about: less stuff, more freedom.
Read Next: How to Survive the First Few Weeks with a Newborn
June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids, doesn’t happen very often.
Thursday 13th of August 2020
Hi! New soon to be Mom here! Did I mention that I'm closer to 40 than 30?! And yes... It is my first time!! Eeeekkkk!! I enjoyed your post, and love the minimalist approach. We have a set of twin boys, 13, from husband's previous marriage... So space is like gold, and possessions have to stay few. Lol. Excited, but terrified. Wish me luck!