Shop smart for your new baby with this checklist of infant necessities, nice-to-haves, and baby items you don't need to spend money on.

By Jessica Hartshorn
Updated January 28, 2020
Courtesy of Chicco

Register at a baby gear store and you may be given a list that's even longer than this one. Of course, they want you to buy everything they've got!

Try to keep in mind that all you really need for baby is diapers, a place for him to sleep, and a blanket to bundle him in.

But we know you're not living in the Stone Age. You need and deserve the accessories that will make your job as parent a whole lot easier. We've listed those as "necessities." Other things that you might appreciate (but which some parents have found to be a waste of money) are listed as "It's nice to have." Items that are merely decorative or not very useful are categorized as "strictly optional." Products that are unsafe appear under "no-nos."

Nursery Furniture

The necessities:

  • Crib or co-sleeper
  • Crib mattress

The nice-to-haves:

  • Changing table
  • Bassinet (though it's only safe until 3 months or 15 pounds)
  • Rocking chair or glider
  • Humidifier or vaporizer
  • Dresser/chest
  • Hamper
  • Baby monitor (if you have a big house)

What you don't need: A secondhand crib (get a new one for safety)

Baby Linens

The necessities:

  • 2 fitted crib sheets
  • Crib bumper that ties on securely (this is controversial -- some people worry that they're a SIDS risk; others say they keep baby from banging into the bars)
  • Several thin cotton receiving blankets
  • 2 waterproof mattress protectors

The nice-to-haves:

  • Matching quilt or a crib skirt (they're only decorative)

What you don't need: Pillows, sleep positioners, or mattress padding as all pose a SIDS risk

Babyproofing Gear

The necessities (after 4 months):

  • Gates at the top and bottom of all stairs
  • Cabinet latches
  • Drawer latches
  • Outlet covers
  • Fireplace bumper
  • Furniture anchors

The nice-to-haves:

  • Toilet lock
  • Corner guards for low tables

Formula Feeding Gear

The necessities:

  • 8 or so bottles with newborn nipples (try several brands to find the one your baby prefers)
  • Bottle-cleaning brush or a dishwasher basket
  • Bottle-drying rack
  • Several weeks' worth of baby formula to start
  • 6 or more cotton bibs
  • 6 or more burp cloths (cloth diapers do the job)
  • Insulated cooler/carrier for outings

The nice-to-haves:

  • Dry formula dispenser
  • Bottle sterilizer

What you don't need: A bottle warmer (heating in hot water takes the same amount of time) or a bottle proper (unless you have multiples and use it sparingly when you can't otherwise feed all the babies at once)

Breastfeeding Gear

The necessities:

  • Nursing pillow
  • 2-3 nursing bras
  • 2-3 boxes of nursing pads
  • 6 or more cotton bibs
  • 6 or more burp cloths (cloth diapers do the job)

The nice-to-haves:

  • Breast pump (electric if you'll use it every day at work, otherwise a hand pump is fine)
  • Breast milk storage bags or containers
  • Several bottles and nipples if someone else will be feeding baby pumped breast milk
  • Nipple cream (for the first few weeks)

RELATEDNursing 101: All About Breastfeeding

Solid-food Feeding Gear

The necessities (not an issue until 4 to 6 months):

  • High chair
  • Plastic bibs
  • Infant feeding spoonsInfant bowl

The nice-to-haves:

  • Mess mat for under the high chair
  • Baby food mill (if you're ambitious enough to puree your own baby food)

RELATEDAge-by-Age Guide to Starting Solid Foods

Diapering Gear

The necessities:

  • 2 packs of newborn diapers to start
  • Wipes
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Waterproof changing table pad
  • 2-3 changing table pad covers (usually cotton or terry cloth)
  • Diaper pail or trash can with a lid

The nice-to-haves:

  • 4-5 waterproof square or rectangular pads for under baby's bottom (protecting the cover that's protecting the pad -- you won't be sorry)
  • Baby cream (if your baby has dry skin)
  • Non-talc powder (to help the diaper area dry faster)

What you don't need: A wipe warmer or a diaper stacker (though they're pretty)

Bathing and Grooming Gear

The necessities:

  • 2 hooded towels
  • 4 washcloths
  • Infant tub (for after the umbilical cord falls off)
  • Bath seat or inflatable tub-within-a-tub (for after 6 months)
  • Baby bath wash
  • Baby shampoo
  • Baby comb and brush set
  • Nail scissors/nail clippers/nail file set
  • Cotton swabs
  • Cotton balls

The nice-to-haves:

  • Bath toys
  • Mesh bag to hold bath toys
  • Bath thermometer
  • Faucet guard

What you don't need: A baby-size robe (it's hard enough to get baby dressed in her real clothes!)

Baby Clothing

The necessities:

  • 7 or more snap-crotch bodysuits/onesies
  • 3-4 T-shirts and/or side-snap shirts
  • Several snap-up rompers
  • Several shirt-and-pant sets
  • 7 pairs of pajamas and/or sleeping gowns
  • Sun hat
  • Cold-weather hat
  • Cardigan sweater
  • Bunting or snowsuit if it gets cold
  • 6 pairs of booties and/or socks
  • Baby hangers for the closet

The nice-to-haves:

  • A special outfit to bring baby home in and/or show her off
  • Several diaper covers
  • A wearable sleep sack, to use instead of a blanket

What you don't need: Shoes (until baby is walking outside, i.e., the toddler years)

Baby Travel Gear

The necessities:

  • Car seat that fits a newborn
  • Stroller that accommodates a newborn
  • Diaper bag filled with diapers, wipes, and a spare outfit
  • Front carrier, like a Snugli or Baby Bjorn

The nice-to-haves:

  • Sling (for the newborn stage)
  • Baby backpack (for after 6 months)
  • Stroller that your car seat fits onto
  • Rain cover for the stroller
  • Infant headrest for the car seat (if it doesn't come with one)
  • Warm blanket or "boot" to wrap baby in during winter strolls
  • Sunshades for the car windows
  • Big diaper bag for overnight trips

What you don't need: A mirror to see baby in the car since they can be a hazard if there's an accident or a a secondhand car seat (always get a new one)

First Baby Toys

No necessities, but it's nice to have:

  • Soft books and board books
  • Rattles
  • Plastic links
  • Soft blocks
  • Activity gym/play mat
  • Crib mirror
  • Toys that attach to the stroller
  • Something plush that crinkles, rattles, and squeaks
  • Baskets to store toys in all the key places: baby's room, the living room, the kitchen

What you don't need: Car seat toy bars (an added risk if there's an accident)

Baby Seats

The necessities:

  • Bouncer seat or infant seat
  • Stationary activity center (once baby is 4 months old)
  • Heavy blankets and quilts to lay on the floor

The nice-to-haves:

  • Swing
  • Moses basket (though only usable until baby reaches 3 months)
  • Portable play yard

What you don't need: A walker or a jumper (get a stationary center instead, for safety)

Baby Care Basics

The necessities:

  • Several pacifiers (try different brands to see which one your baby prefers)
  • Thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Infant Tylenol
  • Nasal aspirator
  • Electrolyte drink (such as Pedialyte, to treat dehydration)

The nice-to-haves:

  • Teething ointment or other teething remedy
  • Vapor cream and/or vapor bath
  • Saline nose drops
  • Antigas medicine
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