Time to Read: 9 minutes
When we were planning to start our family one thing that I really wanted to avoid was filling our house with all sorts of new “stuff” that we didn’t actually need. I had nightmares about walking into our house and seeing a tornado of toys, burp cloths and noise makers.
I would say that Michael and I try to be as minimalist as possible for a few reasons – we don’t want to be wasteful buying things we don’t use and then end up throwing/giving them away, we want to spend our money in places that are truly meaningful to us and we really do enjoy the aesthetic of a space that prioritizes simplicity.
If you haven’t already read The Life Changing Magical Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – it was a game changer for us. We realized through Marie’s lessons that mess in our physical space can also feel like mess in our minds. A neat, tidy and minimalist environment leaves us feeling more calm and peaceful. We have been organizing our home based on her philosophy since.
What we didn’t know was, how do we do this with a baby?!
As soon as I even thought about getting pregnant I was bombarded with ads on facebook for every thingamabob under the sun that I “needed”. It was hard to sift through the good marketing and find what it was that really would be a worthwhile investment. Did I really need a baby wipe warmer?! What about that swing with all the lights and noises?! (Answer: No!).
So if you are like me, wanting to avoid feeling like your space has been taken over by babies and be truly intentional about the items you buy this list is for you.
The following is a list of items that I would consider “surprising essentials” and nothing more. This list does not include basic toys, diapers, cribs/sleeping options and clothes since those seem like obvious additions (and most frequently gifted). My challenge to you is to start with the minimum amount of clothes and toys possible – these are inexpensive and easier to get a hold of so in my mind it is easier to get more if you need it than have too much and be wasteful.
I tried to keep the list to items beyond the fundamentals. Each item below either:
a) made our lives much easier
b) improved Shai’s quality of life and connection to us or
c) helped us maintain a simple/minimalist home.
There is nothing on here that I did not use dozens if not hundreds of times.
The age range on this list is from newborn to toddler (0 months – 2 years) and I will specify any items that are for a specific age.
Ollie Swaddle (0 months until rolling over)
I won’t lie, I was so excited to wrap Shai up like a little burrito in all the super soft, adorable swaddles. I bought at least half a dozen in a variety of patterns and colors and organized them beautifully in the nursery before his arrival. Finally, when we had a baby to wrap up, the cuteness did not disappoint. I mean…
I just cannot get over how sweet he looks bundled up like a little peanut! Unfortunately, outside of adorable photos – which are totally worth it yet only require one blanket – these swaddles did not work at all. All night long Shai would Houdini his way out of the wrap and startle himself awake. Not only did this mean more wakeup’s throughout the night it also meant that we had to retie the swaddle over and over. At 3am the cute little bean wrap loses a lot of its appeal.
This is why I highly recommend the Ollie swaddle or any swaddle that will have a zipper or velcro closure. For us we loved the Ollie because of how it wraps just below the shoulders which avoids any bunching up around the neck, is super secure so there is no need to re-wrap at midnight and allows you to easily access the diaper without needing to undo all your hard work.
Sound Machine (All Ages)
Portable Sound Machine (All Ages)
Leaving the womb and entering the real world is a major adjustment – many consider it even traumatic. If you think about it, you have your sweet baby inside of you where they hear the same muffled sounds, are temperature controlled in warm fluid, rocked to sleep as you go about your day and only see different levels of light through your skin. It is so nice, safe and cozy! Then out they come into our world of harsh lights, sounds, and temperatures.
What does this have to do with a sound machine?! Well, if you have never heard it before THIS is what your baby is hearing inside the womb 24/7. A sound machine mimics this noise to help provide some peace and comfort in this dramatic transition for your baby. There were also two semi-selfish reasons we absolutely loved using a sounds machine:
- Shai was a much better sleeper when the sound machine was playing. I will take any extra sleep where I can get it!
- With the sound machine playing we could continue to make noise in the house. The sound machine drowns out the noises that are happening outside of the room where the baby is sleeping.
We have one sound machine in the nursery and another portable sound machine that we used on walks when Shai slept in the stroller, in the car and whenever we would travel. Highly recommend.
Solly Baby Wrap (0-6 months)
The number one thing I miss the most about having a newborn is wearing the little guy everywhere I went. The feeling of having him sleeping in a wrap right up against my chest is indescribable – pure bliss. I also loved the fact that it allowed me the freedom to be more mobile. With Shai in the wrap I could cook, clean, do my hair, makeup, walk or take him with me to run an errand or two.
The Solly Wrap is the brand we used but I am sure there are many other out there with similar specs. These wraps are very different from a carrier (which I talk about later on). These are more supportive of the baby when they are smaller and can keep them completely covered. There is also a little bit of a learning curve when first getting your little one tucked away as well as more involvement getting it on and off.
Solly says that you can use this wrap up to 12 months – personally, I switched to the carrier around 6 months for reasons I will explain in more depth below. Once Shai got bigger and more mobile the wrap felt more constricting, getting him in there was a battle and we would both get over heated (keep in mind we also live in Texas!).
Overall I highly recommend this item – such a great way to bond and it easily folds up and tucks away into a drawer.
Snuggle Me Pillow (0-4 months)
This pillow was a game changer for us!
First, I personally think the simple and clean design is very appealing. Second, it allowed us to have Shai with us safely everywhere we went. If I was cooking I would have the pillow on the counter with him laying in there. When we had a meal we had him right up there on the table hanging out with us. On the couch watching a movie he could be in the pillow without any fear.
The pillow was also easy to wash in case there were spit up or blow outs, and trust me, there were.
Baby Bjorn Bouncy Chair (4-9 months)
Once Shai started to “wake up” from the newborn stupor that seems to lack self awareness and have longer waking hours, everything began to shift. He no longer enjoyed the Snuggle Me Pillow and instead wanted to be in the action checking out what was going on. This is when the Baby Bjorn Bouncy Chair really came in handy. Very similar to the pillow in the sense that we could set the chair up everywhere we went – on the counter, the table, the floor. Whatever we were doing around the house the chair propped him up just enough to see what was happening and allowed us to interact with him while also getting our own tasks complete.
We had endless conversations and laughter with Shai in the chair and it was amazing to really start seeing him take in his surroundings. When fully set up the Baby Bjorn is rather large but it was worth it. It is also worth mentioning that when you are finished with it you can fold it up and tuck it away neatly.
The brand says the chair works from newborn to 2 years old – we found that when Shai was too small he would flop over and it was not very supporting, then when he was ready to crawl and move around he would not be happy hanging out in there. From 4 months – 9 months was our sweet spot.
Price: Varies depending on bottle size
We try to minimize plastic in our lives as a whole. I could go down the rabbit hole of chemicals within plastic products and what happens to them when heated up, however, there are many more qualified people to do that. A simple google search of “heated plastic and food” is a great place to start. What I will say is that as an overall rule we choose products that are either glass, wood, ceramic or made of another non-toxic material. This is especially the case when it comes to anything that makes direct contact with our food.
It was very important for us to use a glass baby bottle because the milk for babies is heated and therefore risks leeching of the chemicals from its container. Luckily Dr. Browns makes an amazing series of glass baby bottles that we love. Unfortunately, once Shai was old enough to hold the bottle on his own he also was practicing his throwing skills – this led to at least 3 or 4 shattered baby bottles. I knew there had to be an answer as I couldn’t be the only one encountering this issue.
Once again, Dr. Browns to the rescue! After a little research I discovered that they make a bottle with a silicone cover – so now if Shai tosses the bottle there is protection and if you’re weird about silicone it is only on the outside of the glass so it is not touching the milk at all. An extra perk is that the silicone is glow in the dark which is so awesome when looking for the bottle in the dark after putting the baby into the crib.
I will say that this cover is not fool proof – if the bottle hits the ground at the exact right angle I can see an accident still happening.
Unless you are like one of my closest friends Dani Sheriff who decided to go the route of Elimination Communication right out the gate – where you essentially begin potty training after birth – babies use a LOT of diapers. Having a diaper pail made baby clean up quick, painless and as smell friendly as possible. We have one in the nursery and another at the changing station in our main living room.
The Ubbi is simple to use and I like the aesthetic. Plus, it does a pretty amazing job at keeping in the smell which is much more important once the baby is eating solids (if you know, you know).
There are a number of breastfeeding pillows on the market and whether you get this brand or not – I highly recommend getting one. At the peak of breastfeeding I counted exactly how many hours I was breastfeeding Shai in a week – not including clean up, diaper changes and all the things surrounding breastfeeding he was on the breast drinking for 37 hours. Yes, 37 hours!! That is NOT an over exaggeration.
This is the equivalent of a full time job.
MyBrestFriend Pillow was the perfect support for me. I love how there is a buckle that allows you to keep the pillow in place and also even stand up with it on. There is a little pocket where I kept a nipple shield (nipple cover that can help babies learn to latch), nipple cream and burp cloths. The cover is also easy to remove and wash if there were any accidents or spit up.
I could never really get the hang of breastfeeding in the lying down position or my arm would get tired from trying to hold the baby the whole time. 10/10 recommend.
This is definitely one of the items on the list that was worthy of splurging for us (there are cheaper options – I really loved this sleek look). The unique aspect of this diaper changing station is that it does not use any fabric covers – this means when poop or pee get onto it, clean up is a breeze! Grab some sanitizing cleaner, use a baby wipe and voila!
Saving myself from doing extra loads of laundry or needing to change the cover may not seem like a big deal but for me it was absolutely worth while.
Ergo Baby Carrier (4 months – 2 years)
Once the baby grew out of the Solly Wrap I talked about above, the Ergo Baby Carrier became the staple. Michael and I absolutely LOVED baby wearing in general (still do!) for the bonding, the freedom it gave our hands and the ability to be on the move without a big clunky stroller.
We love this one in particular for so many reasons:
You can transition the baby from front facing in to front facing out and then onto your back when they get heavy enough to start causing some back pain.
It feels very secure and is really easy to get on and then adjust to the body size of whoever is wearing it.
The design is gender neutral which means both myself and Michael were happy wearing it.
There is a pocket where you can keep keys, a phone or credit cards.
Ergo thought of all the ways to aid in transition from small baby to toddler. There is a flap for head support that can be folded over, a piece of fabric that can be taken out to provide the baby shade from the sun and adjustments at the base for a growing little one.
We also loved how this carrier provided way more breathing room than the wrap – air flow could get to both the person wearing it and the baby.
This is 100% for the parents. We LOVE to take Shai on walks around the neighborhood in our stroller and the only area to hold a phone, drink or mask (during pandemic times) was in the bottom underneath the baby chair. Then we found this awesome attachment that can hold up to 3 cups and even has a zipper pocket for credit cards or keys.
Easy access to my coffee on the days where Shai would ONLY sleep in the stroller on a walk may have very well saved my life!
Do you need everything on this list? Absolutely not.
Are there things I missed that you feel were essential for you? Probably (please add them in the comments!).
My goal was to provide a list of items that had the highest impact on our lives. When looking back or preparing to add to our family these are the items I would absolutely not do without.