We were really poor when we had our first baby. I worked as a nurse in a nursing home full time and my husband had JUST gotten his first full time job out of college running errands for a steel company. We were, quite honestly, as poor as we have ever been. I didn’t get any paid maternity leave with my company, and headed back to work just shy if my 6 week checkup even though I had ripped stem to stern with his delivery (thank you forceps). What are the things a baby NEEDS weighed heavy on my heart. I’m going to share with you the absolute necessities, where to get them and how to save.
We had WONDERFUL friends who threw us sweet showers and my parents bought us a crib. We had people around us to make sure that we had the necessities around us.
I was reticent to do the Owlet baby monitor post because I do NOT, under any circumstances, think that is something you NEED to have a baby. I just think people waste money on a lot of things with a newborn — and that system could be super handy. And frankly, I’d want to save money on other things to possibly afford the owlet.
But, in light of that post I really wanted to do a post of what you really NEED when you have a new baby.
**Unless otherwise noted I recommend getting almost ALL these things used. Hand-me-downs, buying at consignment stores or thrift stores are a GREAT option. You have quite a long period of time to get ready for your new baby, spend that looking for great prices on the essentials — that way you’re not stuck with a big bill right as you head into maternity leave.
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Things a baby needs:
This one should be new, or at the very least you should know the prior owners. You’ll want to check the expiration date and be SURE that it hasn’t been in any accidents. It seems silly to throw a carseat out after one small accident — but I think this is truly a case of “better safe than sorry” and studies show the plastic can be weakened enough to have a catastrophic failure the next time.
Car seats ARE all about safety, but they also need to be easy to use. Some stores allow you to take it out to your car to test it before you buy it. Know how to get it in and out and get you installation checked if possible (google to see if there is a checkpoint near you). My first car seat was SO hard to get in and out of the car it restricted me from going places. It was a nightmare. Don’t be me. Try it out before you buy!
I did start with this type of car seat and then when my kids were too tall I move to a rear-facing convertible carseat. If money is REALLY tight you can start with just the convertible seat — but the infant car seat is a LOT handier if they are asleep. I much prefer it. Check around with friends who’ve recently had a baby. You don’t usually use it too long and I bet they’re happy to lend it out. Most of them have washable pads that you can make ready for your new baby!
Every hospital I have ever worked at does require that your baby leave in a car seat and we do not provide them for free. FYI.
This is where the 9 months comes in handy. Start playing the game ask your friends for their diaper coupons. Scour the internet for deals. I recommend at least 1 pack of newborn diapers. Most babies (but not all) will use about one pack. Even Mr Middle was 9 pounds and we could stills squeeze him in newborns for one pack. After that, buy 3 or 4 pack of ones, but also focus on size 2. No shame in stockpiling a bit before the baby arrives. I always liked Huggies best. My husband didn’t like the tape on pampers and we just got in a Huggies groove. I’d try a few brands, including store brands to see what you really like — as your friends (I haven’t had one in diapers in a while, thank goodness!). If budget isn’t crazy tight, consider the Amazon Mom program. That’s where I got the majority for princess P. A decent deal (usually similar to Costco), delivered right to your door. They also often have coupons or specials associated with it! For one kid I did to almost exclusively the Costco brand, but with Princess P I found enough coupons and good deals, I could almost always get Huggies for a better price.
I would recommend having variety. And I’m not saying you need to buy them new. Newborn blankets are easy to get as hand me downs, or buy almost new at a consignment store. Everyone seems to have their favorites. If you’re a good swaddler you can get away with a lot of different ones, but I have heard good things about these Swaddle Me Brand. I see Swaddlers pretty frequently at thrift stores. I’d buy a few different brands and just make sure they have a good washing before you set them up in the nursery. I actually really liked these small flannel type. They’re great for swaddling arms (often can’t cover the feet well if it’s winter though). Also VERY good for a lightweight blanket in the carseat.
A Spot To Sleep
If you’ve read any of my baby posts — especially this one. You know that I am NOT a fan of co-sleeping, neither is the American Academy of Pediatrics. Get a crib. If a crib isn’t a possibility in the next few months, ask around for a bassinet. I bet you have a friend who has one they’re happy to lend. Other options are a playpen or a co-sleeper (not a budget-friendly option, will not be safe in a few months for your baby, but super handy) BUT, your baby needs a spot of their own to sleep. Ask around. We were happy to share our crib with friends once we were done having kids. Consignment stores often have really cheap sleeping options as well. The Carseat is NOT a sleeping option, it’s not good for babies. Find somehing else.
You don’t need anything fancy, you can certainly use an old dishtowel or washcloth. You just need an absorbent cloth when you’re feeding. I mean you can even use your shirt… it just never seemed the most convenient. 🙂 My favorites were always the old cloth diapers. They have a nice absorbent area in the middle (I had a couple of kids with reflux that I needed the burp cloth to be able to take a lot of liquid). You could always get the cute ones pictured though. 🙂 I’d buy these new. Look for a sale, although those cloth diapers aren’t too expensive to begin with. Or, be sure to ask for them at your baby shower.
I think at least one pack of these is a necessity. BUT they always SUPER cheap at Thrift and consignment stores. You can get plenty of cute ones at a great price! I love plain white ones. I’m a sucker for a baby in a white onsie. 🙂 They’re great to put under clothes for warmth when it’s cold outside. During the summer they can be an outfit with a light blanket. Of course, lots of clothes are fun too — Check out Gymboree’s new collection!
These are a must. AND they’re always at thrift stores and consignment stores. There are many great things about these. 1- They don’t have to go over your baby’s head, which is often the scariest part of dressing a newborn. 2- They cover their feet (sometimes even their hands if you’re lucky — to cover up those deadly finger nails). 3- Make for easy diaper changes vs pulling off a lot of clothes. There are knit, fleece and flannel options. Figure out which one fits the weather for your time of year.
I don’t think you need to buy every single one on the isle. AND a lot of hospitals will provide you a pacifier if you ask (it used to be taboo to give pacifiers as it was supposed to hurt breastfeeding, but new science about pacifiers and sids have made it more OK). Maybe ask if the hospital has one on your tour. BUT, I do recommend having a LEAST one to see if it will work when you’re dying of the crying in the middle of the night. Who knows, you might not need it (I hope not)! OR, it will become your best friend and you’ll want to marry it. 🙂 Obviously, this needs to be bought new.
I’d have at least ONE bottle on hand. Even if you plan to breastfeed. it’s just smart to buy one. Some people never do, and that’s fine. You don’t need the super expensive kind. Just have one. I actually got a couple of free bottles from baby stuff I had signed up for, so it’s possible to even find samples for free. Unless you have a friend who didn’t use their bottles much, I’d recommend buying them new. Nipples have a pretty sure lifetime, plus it kind of grosses me out otherwise.
A swing might not be a need in everyone’s book. It was in mine. AND it is likely that you have a friend willing to lend their’s out. You only use it for a few moths but boy oh BOY is it bliss when your baby just needs SOMETHING. I love these smaller models that take up very little floor space. I had a wind-up swing. #iamold #nobatteries
A bag to carry stuff.
Find any bag, but I will say that there are a lot of advantages to a purely diaper bag. Mainly that they’re pretty wipe-able. Even if you’re planning to breastfeed, sign up for all the formula programs that are available. A lot of them come with a free diaper bag. is it the skip hop one shown here? No. but it’s fine, and it will carry stuff and you won’t cry when it gets ruined by baby vomit. Also check consignment stores, they often have really cute ones for a great price!
So, that’s my list.
What did I miss?
Having a baby doesn’t have to break the bank. Just be sure to:
- Check thrift stores. Their stores are usually better than consignment stores (especially on their sale days). Newborn stuff is there by the LOADS and still in GREAT condition)
- Check consignment stores for better quality stuff
- Ask around — a lot of these things can be used with multiple kids and families are happy to see other families get good use out of the items.
And pretty soon, you can think about spending a few bucks on yourself instead of your fetus.
I compiled a list of awesome freebies for new moms. The prices are super reasonable — but again — none of the things are a “need”. Many of them can be bought “free” — you just pay shipping. Be sure to use code CURLS333 to get your discount!
The 11 "can't do without" baby needs!
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And don’t miss my totally free hospital packing list: