Usually, I’m not the type of person who will tell you that you NEED something. I’m a minimalist through and through, even with baby gear. However, newborns bring a whole new set of needs to your home. And with them, you might want a few things to help ease your journey into parenthood. I have compiled a list of bare minimum baby essentials and a checklist to ease this time for you.
This minimalist baby essential checklist is categorized from absolute necessities, to other essentials, to other items that minimalists may consider for their baby. Plus, keep scrolling for a bare minimum baby essentials download that you can get for free.
Bare Minimum Baby Essentials – Why Minimalism?
Why go with just the bare minimum baby essentials?
So many mothers now-a-days seem to overload on cute little things, clothes, all the latest so-called “educational toys” for newborns… But is it all really necessary?
I say that it’s not.
Being minimalist as a parent can help in many ways:
- your stress and mental health (fewer things to clean and put away)
- the space in your home (less clutter means more space to play and relax)
- mindfulness (reducing the number of items helps you increase your awareness and choose thoughtfully)
- the environment (what happens to all the crap you buy that you don’t need or use only once?)
Bare Minimum Baby Essentials for Sleep, Diapering, and Feeding
Before we dive into my list of items, I want to discuss sleep, diapering, and feeding and how they can affect your minimalist choices.
Minimalist Baby Essentials for Sleep
Where your baby sleeps can have a major impact on your consumer choices as a minimalist parent. Namely, how much do you want to purchase?
The most minimal of all sleep choices is to bed-share. You wouldn’t need to purchase a crib, toddler bed, or even a real-sized bed until they are ready to move into their own space at night.
If you choose to bed-share or co-sleep, it is absolutely essential that you learn more about it and how to do it safely. There are tons of benefits to bed-sharing, especially easy access to breastfeeding, helps babies thrive, and helps bonding with parents.
We chose to have a side-car crib that transitioned into a crib for both babies. Following that, our toddler went right into a big-boy bed. This meant that we didn’t have to purchase a bassinet or toddler bed.
The least minimalist of all choices would be a different bed for each developmental stage, including bassinet, crib, toddler bed, and big kid bed.
Minimalist Baby Essentials for Diapering
There are two main choices for diapering: cloth diapers or disposables. (You can also do a combination of them, which is what we did.)
Cloth diapers are worth considering as a minimalist mom. They do mean more laundry, but there are tons of benefits to them, including fewer diapers in landfills, saving a TON of money, and easier potty training.
I have not included any cloth diapering suggestions here, so do some additional research to determine if this is right for your minimalist family!
Minimalist Baby Essentials for Feeding
One of the easiest ways to be a minimalist mom is to breastfeed and be a stay-at-home mom to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of your baby’s life.
I understand that this is not doable for most women, but if you’re absolutely resolute in your minimalism journey, you definitely want to consider this.
Breastfeeding has unparalleled benefits for both mom and baby. It requires no bottles, no formula, no breast pump, no wasted hours doing double duty.
My first son never latched and I exclusively pumped for 4 months, when I developed an abscess and it was no longer sustainable for me. The bottles, pump, parts and pieces, cooler and ice packs for work, formula supplements… it was absolutely exhausting!
Before my second son was born, I had decided to quit my full-time job to be a stay-at-home mom. He latched right away and I never needed to pump or use bottles EVER! It was the easiest, most amazing thing for a full 6 months. Of course, I couldn’t be away from him for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time, but it was worth it!
Those two things considered, here is my list of bare minimum baby essentials.
Bare Minimum Baby Essentials Checklist
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Non-negotiable Items Baby ABSOLUTELY Needs:
These essentials are the bare bones of what helped us on our journey with both boys. The items that are on this list, both of our kids have gotten a lot of. We have other things, of course, but they were items that we didn’t use as frequently.
Onesies & PJs
Baby needs something to wear. That should hopefully be one of the first items on your list.
I find that Carter’s brand were the ones with plenty of stretch that also fit the boys the best. Other brands can be somewhat baggy, or ride up in the crotch.
You can find them in packs, boy’s and girl’s styles, short or long sleeved. Start with 10 onesies and 4 PJs and go from there. You’ll be amazed at how many your newborn will go through in his or her first few months!
And obviously, depending on the time of year, you’ll also need pants, winter bunting, etc. But start with the basics, especially when the baby and you are just around the house.
Just watch the sizing. 3mo doesn’t mean three months… it means 0-3 months! Both of my boys were in the next size at least a month before, so these can run small. Check out the sizing and weight & height charts here.
You can even find these at TJ Maxx and Marshalls on discount. Stock up while you can!
Don’t forget to purchase some sleep sacks. Regardless of whether you choose to co-sleep or have baby in their own space, sleep sacks are definitely essential!
If you’re in the US, you probably get places in a car. That means a car seat. This can be one of the more expensive items you need for the baby, but there’s no way to skip this item.
We skipped the infant car seat and went straight to a convertible car seat. We knew that it would just be more things to purchase, and also I wasn’t particularly excited about lugging a carseat around on my arm. I opted instead for a baby carrier. (See below)
I highly recommend investing in a higher quality model carseat.
The Safety 1st model is AWFUL! It keeps M safe, so if you’re budget-conscious, it’s an okay choice. But the straps constantly wind up, get caught, and make it difficult to strap him in snug. It’s difficult to secure and get in and out of the car.
The Evenflo is fantastic. It makes strapping D in super easy. The clips for securing the carseat are simple and easy.
Both of them are built for children 5 lbs through 40 or so. (Check specifications for more details.) So they will last you a long time!
And don’t forget to learn how to secure the 5 point harness!
Bare Minimum Baby Essentials Options
One day will come when baby will get his first cold. And it’s going to be awful, so make it a little easier with a Nose Frida.
I know you’re thinking that this shouldn’t be an essential since they hand out those bulb syringes at the hospital.
Don’t even think of using those bulb syringes for baby’s nose! First, they don’t work very well, and second, you can’t clean them well and they need to be replaced every month or so.
Invest in the Nose Frida. It works like a charm, it’s easy to clean, and if your baby gets a cold, this is going to be a life saver. M hated it, but D doesn’t mind it so much. Pair it with saline spray to make sure you get everything out and keep baby’s nasal passages moisturized during dry and cold weather!
Basic Crib & Accessories
As discussed above, if you choose to bed-share, you won’t need a crib! (But make sure you follow safe bed-sharing practices!)
We went the middle route and fastened a side car crib to our bed. This ensured that I was always an arm’s reach away, but that both our boys had their own space. D doesn’t always sleep in it (he’d rather be cuddled up next to me on the bed) but he’s getting better.
We specifically chose a simple crib that we could use as a sidecar crib, then regular crib, then toddler bed! That way, we had one item that he could sleep in for a couple years at least.
You don’t need any other sheets or blankets until a baby is much older. Don’t get bumpers or put ANYTHING else in the crib! They can contribute to SIDS and suffocation.
Unless you want to keep baby in your arms at all times, or you DO plan on using an infant car seat, you’ll need something to carry baby in. This was HANDS DOWN the best choice we made as new parents.
We tried 4 different carriers and this was by far my favorite. I could haul around our first son when he was a year old, at 24 pounds, without killing my back and shoulders! It’s ergonomically correct for baby, and will help you keep your little one close!
If you’re planning on using it with your newborn, make sure you get the one with the newborn insert. Without it, your baby could actually slip out the leg holes. Keep your baby safe!
Also, make sure you only use the carrier in the front position, with the baby facing toward you until he or she can hold their head up (around 4-5 months). After that, you can successfully turn them to face out. Don’t carry baby on the back until much later.
This is another expensive item, but be sure to look on Craigslist, ebay, or Facebook if you have a tight budget. I managed to find a used one on Facebook Marketplace for $50! Win win!
Your other options for moving baby from point A to B include a pram or stroller, or a wrap carrier.
These are absolutely essential and can be used for so many different things! The muslin swaddle blankets can be used to swaddle, of course, and they’re great because they’re big enough to make swaddling a breeze.
They can also be used as receiving blankets (as in, to receive spit-up), as a cover for breastfeeding, and a cover for a carseat or stroller!
While Aden and Anais are popular, I found them to be a little rough. I found these Margeux and May swaddles on Amazon and I very much recommend them! They are cute and SUPER soft! Boys can appreciate florals too!
A few toys
Yes, toys are essential. I mean, don’t get a million of them. But babies, especially when they reach about 3 months, do need to be entertained and have something to stimulate them. They need something to engage their brains and work their bodies. And believe me, they will find items and turn them into toys, including your glasses, nose, a spoon, and whatever else they can get their hands on.
The two toys that were the most versatile for us were the wheel with suction cup and an exersaucer.
We loved the wheel because it’s portable, it can be manipulated and it makes noise! Oh, and it makes a great chew toy too!
The exersaucer is amazing for when baby can hold up his head but isn’t walking yet. His mind is developing SO fast, and he needs things to play with and manipulate. We use the exersaucer to put D in when I’m making M’s lunch or if he just needs some stimulation.
Make sure you don’t get one that baby can push around on the floor… it can delay walking!
If you’re not going to leave the house for a while after birth, it’s not imperative that you get one right away. But you’ll need one eventually, so here are some considerations to make.
Get a gender-neutral bag. This way, you don’t have to get a second one when dad balks about having to carry around a girly bag!
Get one that is big enough for everything. I know, you’re a minimalist parent… but believe me, with kids things add up. And if you’re considering having more kids along the way, you’ll want to have some extra space. When you’re prepared ahead of time you can avoid having to purchase a second bag.
Other Minimalist Baby Essentials To Consider
These two last bare minimum baby essentials are places to put baby when you’re doing other things and you want baby to be safe. These are good for when you’re doing the laundry, cooking a meal, or you need somewhere safe for baby to be during the day when you AND baby are both awake!
Basic Pack n Play
This is another highly versatile item that was essential for us.
My husband and I like traveling a lot, so this was M’s crib on many trips. We also have used it as a diaper changer, a play place, and storage. It served as a crib when the boys were young enough to take naps in the bright light of our family room.
We have one of the most basic models, and it was all we needed. But it was great to have a place to put M or D that we knew he would be safe. It was his own space!
Boppy Pillow Lounger
We actually used this quite a bit! I put both the boys in it on the bathroom floor when I showered. I put them in it on the floor to hang out while I exercised or did yoga. They lounged in it in the pack & play when they were newborns and we needed a break from holding them!
If you don’t go with the boppy lounger, you could get a swing or bouncer… somewhere they can be safe and hang out. Many parents get all of them! I didn’t want the boys to get used to falling asleep while in motion (except in our arms), so the swing and bouncer were no-go’s for us.
Plus, the elephants are pretty cute, and it’s easy to wash/clean!
Last Minimalist Baby Essential Considerations
Honestly, these are the only items aside from useables like diapers that we use on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need a lot for baby! Just a few essentials and you’re really set to go!
Some other items you might want to consider that are definitely basics:
- high chair
- books (babies are never too little to read to!)
- cloth diapering supplies
- diaper pail (we had one and never used it!)
- bibs (good for when baby starts eating solids at 6 months)
Let’s stop the mom-shaming, please
Minimalist Baby: 10 Things You DON’T Need for Your Little One
I know all too well how tempting it is when you first find out you’re pregnant to desire every single item for baby. There are some seriously tempting and cute items!
But realistically, you might not have money or space. Or maybe you just don’t want the mental headache from all the clutter. The items above are definitely the bare minimum baby essentials, but these below are completely optional and might not even get any use at all.
The items on this list are ones that we only used once or twice, and some none at all
1. Bottle warmer & Bottle drying rack
The idea behind this is that the bottles should be cleaned and dried separate from all your other dishes. Wiping with a towel can spread germs. Your regular drying rack to air dry the bottles is just fine. Just sanitize your bottles in boiling water every now and again!
As for the warmer… you can’t just use warm water like a double boiler? It works great, and especially in the beginning, they don’t drink that much and it doesn’t take too long to warm up! It’s just one more thing.
2. Crib bumpers
Crib bumpers are designed to keep little legs and arms from getting caught up or stuck between the bars of a crib. They’re also cute. But they can be dangerous. Crib bumpers increase the risk of suffocation if a child gets caught between the mattress and the bumper.
I know they look cute, but for the sake of safety, this is an item to say, “Pass!”
Both of my boys absolutely hated hats. It may be useful to have one or two, especially if your baby is born in fall, winter, or early spring. But many baby buntings have hoods, and there are ways to swaddle baby to stay warm on his or her head as well.
I bought a few hats for my first son, and they were a waste of money.
4. A lot of newborn-sized clothes
Depending on how big your baby is when he or she is born, they may not even wear newborn sized clothes. Both M and D wore Newborn sized clothing for about 3 weeks before we switched to 0-3 months. They’ll switch around 9 or 10 pounds, so if you’re projected to have a big baby, you might want to go right into 0-3 months sizes anyway.
5. Baby tub, wash cloths, and towels
I have to be honest. With both of my sons, I washed them by bringing them into a bath with me. My parents bought us a newborn tub and we used it exactly once. Plus, skin to skin contact is incredibly beneficial for baby in the early months. So pass on the extra item and opt instead for some extra cuddles with baby!
And as long as your towels are soft enough, baby won’t mind being dried in your towel or another adult towel. If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: many items we buy for purely aesthetic value or impressing friends and family… but how many of your friends and family see your baby at bathtime anyway?
6. A sit and push walker
It’s another dangerous one, folks, AND it can delay walking. I’m talking specifically about the seated walkers with wheels that allow babies between the ages of 6-12 months sit down in a swing-like fabric seat, and then push themselves around on the floor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says no, and they’re even banned in Canada.
Many babies have died or been injured by pushing themselves into dangerous situations (into a pool, for example) and were unable to get themselves loose. Please do your little one a favor and don’t purchase this.
7. Infant Lounger, Rocker, or Bouncer
Here’s another potential dangerous one. Babies continue to die from positional asphyxia from these products and Congress has considered banning them. But they’re still on the market.
Practice good consumer habits and don’t purchase something that could kill your little one.
8. Changing table
I didn’t use a changing station. I typically have a stash of diapers in various places around the house (or in the diaper bag). It’s completely unnecessary, and oftentimes it’s more of a hassle to cart the child to the changing table. Save yourself the trouble and the money.
What to get instead:
Get some small, washable pads that you can lay different places. They can go in your diaper bag or different places around the house.
Aside from one cute pair for pictures, shoes are totally ridiculous for a creature that can’t walk! Don’t get me started on baby hard-soled tennis shoes!
What to do instead:
Wait until your baby can use a push walker and actually walk around. (Think about 6-9 months.) Here’s our favorite minimalist baby shoe:
Guys, we got SO many baby blankets from friends, family… hand me downs, crocheted, knitted, sewn, bought… you name it! And what did we do with most of them?
We gifted the nicer ones and kept the sentimental ones, but most ended up in our “Goodwill Pile” when decluttering season rolled around.
Living minimally can help your mental health, your balance, and your sanity as you navigate the journey of parenthood.
Make sure you start with the absolute essentials and move on from there to keep your purchases minimal and intentional.
There are a lot of things that are marketed to new mothers that we don’t actually need. Opting to not purchase these (or ask for these items as gifts) can help you save wasted money and can give you some balance in your life as a new mother.
But these meet the needs of specific families and their choices for baby.
Did you find any other items to be ABSOLUTE bare minimum baby essentials?
What about things that were a waste of money and space?
Drop it in the comments below!
*Posted September 17, 2019
*Updated May 29, 2020