Curious about what you actually need to have on hand before your baby is born? Here I’m detailing the most essential baby things to buy before birth so that you’ll know you’re ready!
Now, this article isn’t meant to take the place of a full-blown registry checklist. Instead, I wanted to boil down the 10 baby things that are essential to have on hand before you bring baby home from the hospital.
These are the things that need to be set up and ready to use from day 1. And ideally, you’ll have a chance to practice using them a bit too!
So maybe you’re a mama that wants to double-check you haven’t forgotten anything essential, or maybe you ARE working on your registry and want to get started with the absolute essentials first.
Whatever the case may be, let’s get to it. I give you the top baby things to buy before birth!
- Sleeping space for baby in your room
- Car seat that’s properly installed
- Diapering supplies
- Basic baby clothes
- Medicine cabinet/health and care must-haves
- Some breast and bottle-feeding essentials
- Wrap it all up with some education!
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Sleeping space for baby in your room
Many expecting moms, myself included, set up beautiful and well-coordinated nurseries, but put little thought into the space where baby will sleep in their parent’s room. The AAP recommends co-rooming, for at least 6 months with up to 12 months being ideal. Room sharing can reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS by up to 50%!
Room sharing means that baby is sharing a room with their parents, but in their own sleeping space. According to the AAP safe sleep guidelines, this sleep space should have a flat, firm surface and a tight-fitting sheet.
What are good sleep options for baby to set up in my room?
Think about what you want baby to sleep in that still adheres to these guidelines. A pack and play is a great option because it fits the bill in terms of safe sleep guidelines, and is something that will grow with your child.
Most pack and plays have a weight and height limit of up to 35 inches and 28+ lbs. This means that your baby will be using this from when they are born potentially through some of toddlerhood. Pack and Plays are a great portable sleep space for travel, which is why it is a versatile option.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of a bassinet?
Alternatively, you could go with a bassinet as long as it has a firm flat surface and a tight-fitting sheet. The disadvantage to using this is that the weight limits can be as low as 15 lbs (but some go up to about 20 lbs). Your baby may outgrow it quickly and sleep space transitions tend to be tricky for new babies.
However, bassinets are elevated making for easy transfers in and out of the sleep space. Their smaller and mobile sizes make it possible to put them right at your bedside for easy glances and checks during the night.
And then there’s The Snoo
The Snoo is another option for your room – and is what I used with my second baby! It’s unlike any other bassinet because its design is based on the work of Dr. Harvey Karp. It has built-in features that mimic a womb-like environment to promote longer stretches of independent sleep.
- Swaddle that attaches to the sides of the crib that keeps baby safely on their back the whole night
- Built-in rocking motion, vibration, and white-nose
- An awesome app that tracks baby’s sleep
Pros of the Snoo include:
- Eliminates the dance of putting baby down and promotes independent sleep
- The app that tracks baby’s sleep is really well done and gives so much insight into your nights
- All of the features are customizable and adjustable
- You can rent one to help diffuse the high price tag!
But some drawbacks to the Snoo include:
- It comes with a hefty price tag
- It’s pretty heavy – so not super travel friendly
- There’s no storage underneath the bassinet
- It doesn’t work for all babies – but does have a 30-day no-risk trial!
In short, you don’t NEED a Snoo. But if you’ve got loved ones that want to splurge on a special gift, or you’re interested in exploring the rental option – I don’t think you’ll regret it!
You can check out my full review here.
Quick links for baby’s sleep space in your room:
- Something for baby to sleep in (Pack and Play, bassinet, or regular crib if there’s space!)
- Waterproof mattress cover made for your product! A tight fit is essential for safe sleep
- Fitted sheets – again specific to your product!
- Swaddle for baby: I think muslin swaddles and a few Velcro options make sense!
- Sleep sack for 0-3 months (not all babies go for the swaddles – though it’s usually preferred)
- Dimmable light for your nightstand
- White noise machine
- Blackout curtains
Car seat that’s properly installed
As you probably know, you can’t leave the hospital without a car seat! You definitely want to purchase a car seat and have it safely installed before you are full-term, but a little lead time is even better.
Which car seat to choose?
As far as which car seat to get? Girl, there are SO many options out there – and it is seriously overwhelming. The good news is that when it comes to car seats, price does not equal a better or safer seat! All car seats have to pass the same safety standards here in the US.
When I had CPST Brigette Watson on the podcast, here were the tips she mentioned:
- Remember that the infant car seat usually only lasts for around a year, so keep that in mind when you are looking at the cost
- Make sure the car seat is compatible with your car’s make and model! Not every car seat is compatible with every car
- Choose a car seat that fits your budget, family dynamics, and installation confidence
- Some stores will let you take the sample seat in store out to your car to see what installation is like and see if it fits (especially if you need to fit three across the back seat)
- Check your car manual to see where car seat installation is even allowed. There are a number of makes and models out there that do not allow for middle seat installation
- Try out your convertible seat in forward-facing and rear-facing positions
There’s a resource to help – Safe in the Seat!
And if you’re still feeling overwhelmed (I know I was!) my friend Michelle at @safeintheseat has an amazing community of over 500k+ and a wealth of resources related to car seat buying, installation, and safety!
Her Infant Seat Courses are SO helpful for expectant parents. The Infant Car Seat Buying Kit answers every single question to make choosing a seat so much easier (including an amazing comparison database!), and The Infant Course teaches you how to use the infant car seat safely inside and out.
And as far as car seat installation…
I recommend utilizing YouTube to get your infant car seat installed correctly and to familiarize yourself with how to attach the seat to the base. Once YOU think you have it right, I cannot urge you enough to go get it checked by a Car Seat Safety Tech.
To find one in your area, you can call your town hall – they will be able to point you to when and where car seat safety checks happen. If you don’t have any luck with that, your hospital and good old Google can also help.
Diapering supplies are something you definitely need to buy before birth. In addition to the actual supplies, I want you to go ahead and familiarize yourself with use and get it all set up too!
Quick links for diapering supplies:
- 1 pack of newborn diapers (more if you’re having twins or will be induced early)
- 2-3 packs of size 1 diapers
- Changing table pad
- Changing table pad cover
- Wipe holder
- Wipes (this pack has some with a seal top for on the go, and some refills for your holder!)
- Diaper cream x 3 (for main changing table, caddy, and diaper bag)
- Diaper pail (optional)
- Basket for a portable diaper caddy (optional)
Setting it all up
I recommend having a station set up on each floor if you live in a two (or more) story house. You will probably have the main changing station in the nursery or in your room.
Main changing table/changing space
For the main changing area you’ll want to have everything you need to get baby clean and comfortable at an arm’s reach while they are on their changing pad. You should NEVER walk away from baby while they are on top of the dresser or changing table.
You’ll need a changing pad with a fitted cover. It’s a good idea to also have backup changing pad covers somewhere in your changing station because they will inevitably get dirty and need to be stripped immediately.
If space allows, you should also have wipes, diaper cream, lotion, and a few clean diapers on the surface. If your table is not wide enough to accommodate more than the changing pad, make sure these things are in one of the top drawers or shelves – below the changing pad.
Downstairs/secondary changing options
For my second baby, I actually set up a pack-and-play to use as a changing area downstairs, but for my first, a portable diaper caddy for downstairs worked great!
Basically, all you need is a rolled-up mat/blanket to change on, a few clean diapers, burp cloths, wet wipes, and cream! Just restock as needed.
A few diapering FAQs
What size diapers will I need?
For sizing, keep in mind that the weight ranges that are published on the box should be used as a guideline only. You will find that sizes do have some weight range overlap. These ranges do not take into account the unique size and shape of your baby. You may even need to try a few different brands before finding the one that is right for your baby’s body.
Remember that the most expensive is not necessarily the best. For sizing and stocking up ahead of time, don’t go crazy with the newborn diapers.
The exception to this would be if you are having twins or have a premature baby. Otherwise, your baby will grow out of them very quickly. In many cases, even newborn babies can use size one. This is true even if they aren’t yet at the 10 lb mark that most size one diapers recommend.
The hospital where I delivered only stocked size one diapers, and they worked just fine. I did prefer to use a pack of newborn diapers in the first week or two, but then we switched to size one.
How do you know when to switch sizes?
As soon as your baby has a wet diaper leak or an explosion, it is probably an indication that it is time to switch diaper sizes. If you just sized up or the diaper was not on straight, then it is possible that it was a rogue explosion (especially if it was a poop). Generally, these along with weight are the way to know it is time to size up.
Should I change my baby’s diaper during the night?
Something I would have never thought about before my baby arrived was if and when to change diapers at night. It just doesn’t occur to you. Had I learned this ahead of time, instead of in the first month, I would have saved myself some trouble.
As long as your baby doesn’t have a rash and you are using absorbent disposable diapers, you only need to do nighttime diaper changes for poops. Don’t cause unnecessary stimulation during the night over a wet diaper. Simply apply some diaper cream or Vaseline to their bottom before bed and they will be just fine until morning as long as they don’t poop.
What’s the best way to change baby’s diaper at night if I need to?
If you do need to change a dirty diaper in the night, keep the lights as low as possible. Try to avoid eye contact with your baby, and do not speak. I know how tempting it is to coo and engage, but you want to help baby learn day from night.
Basic baby clothes
Alright, moving right along with our list of things to buy before baby – we can’t forget baby clothes! But when I say this I’m really talking about the basics. If you (or your great aunt, ha) can’t resist an adorable ‘outfit’ or two, I hear you, but it’s essential to have, well, the essentials on hand before birth!
Let’s talk about newborn size first
Most people will tell you not to waste your time on newborn size clothing, and while on the whole, I agree, I think it’s a mistake not to get any.
My guys were swimming in 0-3 month clothes for the first month of life, and I really liked having some simple options that actually fit my baby during that time. They are SO much easier to get on when you (and baby!) are first learning.
I’m not saying you should get hoodies, dresses, suits, and swimwear in newborn size, but having some bodysuits, footed pajamas, and soft pants in size newborn is a good idea.
Tip: If you and your partner were very big babies (9+ pounds!) or your provider suspects a large baby – you may want to err on the very low side of newborn clothes. But the average birth weight is a little more than ~7lbs – which is pretty tiny!
So how many newborn size clothes should I buy?
- 4 pack long and short-sleeved body suits: I would recommend grabbing a pack of each, no matter the season. I often put my summer baby in long-sleeved body suits and loved the ones with a little fold-over to cover his hands so he couldn’t scratch himself. Body suits are the shirts with the snaps at the crotch. It prevents the shirt from riding up and is easy for diaper changes. Often, the neck is designed so that when there is a blow-out you can simply pull the shirt down and off of them and not deal with poop going over the head
- 2 pairs soft pull-on pants: Something to go with those body suits when you take baby out of the house in their car seat or baby wearing. This will be especially important if you have baby during a colder time of the year
- 2 kimono-style long sleeves: These are shirts with buttons on the side that you put on like a jacket. They can be an easy way to add a layer on baby without having to pull something over their head, and they’re nice and loose while you’re waiting for the umbilical cord to fall off
- 2 footed pajamas: Don’t go crazy in the newborn size with these, but having a few, especially if baby is born in a colder month. These are great for hanging around the house when they aren’t swaddled or to keep baby warm at night. Most mamas (including me!) will tell you to go with the zipper always!
Tip: If your budget is tight and you really don’t want to get too much newborn size, then I would say the essentials are the bodysuits with snap-crotches and footed pajamas.
How many 0-3 month clothes should I buy?
Again, we’re talking just the essentials here – but you’re basically going to buy all the same things as the newborn size! However, you should up the quantity because they’ll be in this size longer and, well, laundry is a b*tch.
- 10-12 bodysuits: Long-sleeved and short sleeved
- 10-12 soft pants like these
- 6-8 footed jammies: Fleece are great for a winter baby
- 10-12 pairs of socks
Trust me when I tell you this is what your baby is going to live in! The cute outfits are fun and adorable, but you won’t use them as much as you think.
There are also some seasonal things you may need for summer vs. winter baby – but we’re just going to stick to the essentials here!
Tip: The above links are for Amazon for your convenience – but I also LOVE Carter’s for Baby Essentials and you can almost always get a good deal. Their sales are amazing!
Baby clothes sizing tips
Any veteran mom will tell you that no two brands are alike when it comes to weight and height associated with sizing! You will learn in the first few months what brands work well for your baby’s body type (and budget), but here are some things I wish I’d know:
- For brands that just give a single month for the size, consider that the upper limit (ie – Carters)
- Most brands do give height and weight suggestions for their size ranges but you may need to search for the size chart online
- Find out what you and your husband were like as babies. Always in the next size up? Always on the smaller side? This may give you an idea of what to expect
- I have found boutique brands to run on the smaller side. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it occurred often enough for us that I’d be aware of it
- When in doubt, always keep the tags on and exchange for a bigger size or store credit. Even if you don’t get full value, it’s better than wasted clothes baby never wore
Tip: You should wash all clothes (and bedding, swaddles, etc.) before using them with baby. Make sure you’ve got some baby-safe detergent, or just a scent-free sensitive skin detergent ready for this. Doing this before birth is a good idea!
Medicine cabinet/health and care must-haves
I think this is an easily forgotten area of baby-prep but one that packs a big punch in those early weeks. It is such a benefit to have the things you need to care for baby when they’re sick or uncomfortable before it happens.
- Infant Tylenol: Infant Tylenol is the go-to for fever, so make sure you have some in stock
- Thermometer: A rectal thermometer is preferred and most accurate! The next best option is a temporal thermometer
- Gas drops/Gripe water: You’ll want to have this on hand just in case you wind up with a gassy baby
- Nail clippers: They also have a fancy electric nail file you can purchase from Amazon, if you’re afraid of the clippers (I get it, they can be scary!)
- Tiny tweezers: For any splinters!
- Saline drops/spray: Personally, I love the spray, but to each their own!
- Vitamin D drops: For breastfeeding mamas, or mamas who supplement – the AAP recommends all infants who are not fully formula fed are supplemented with Vitamin D drops daily. I kept these at my bedside because that’s normally where I would feed Ryland and it was easy to give him his drops there!
- Bulb syringe or a NoseFrida: Keep this near your bedside, or wherever baby is in case you need it really quickly!
Tip: Use this pre-made list to make sure you grab it all!
Some breast and bottle-feeding essentials
I think that a lot of mamas who plan to breastfeed overlook the getting of bottle-feeding supplies! The fact is that breastfeeding can be really unpredictable in the beginning, and even if you ARE exclusive breastfeeding – you’re probably going to use a bottle at some point 😊
And if you know you’re planning to use formula from the get-go, then yeah, bottle-feeding supplies are essential!
Here are the absolute essentials for bottle-feeding
- Multiple size bottles: You won’t need anything bigger than 4-5 oz for a few months, but as baby grows, it’s a great idea to get larger sizes
- Bottle brush: Normal sponges just can’t get in there right
- Bottle drying rack: I do like to have a separate drying area for all the bottle things
- Multiple size nipples: Breastfed babies and newborns need the slowest flow nipple, but having a couple of the next stage up is a good idea – what you get will depend on your brand!
Find my complete list of bottle-feeding equipment here.
Here are the absolute essentials for breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding pillow
- Nipple cream
- Breast pads: These can really help your nursing bras last longer between washing
- Breast pump: Check out all of my pump reviews here!
Find my complete list of breastfeeding essentials here.
Wrap it all up with some education!
So, there you have it. My take on baby things to buy before birth! But before we wrap it up completely, I want to finish with a purchase that isn’t a thing per se – and that’s education!!
Having all the right baby gear on hand certainly goes a long way in making your transition to life with a baby easier. But education is what’s really going to drive it home. Knowledge is power after all!
Learn about Mommy Labor Nurse’s online birth classes – which all include 2.5 hours of newborn care that covers things like diapering, health and safety, feeding, and more.
Not ready to commit to the full class? Check out our FREE Birth Prep Workshop – a 45-minute, on-demand video course that teaches you the 3 secrets to an even better birth!