Baby Shopping Guide: The Must-Haves (and Don't-Needs)

Going shopping for baby gear? Shop smart with this cheat sheet list of infant necessities, nice-to-haves and baby products you don't need to spend money on.
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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."

RELATEDParents' Best Baby Gear 2018

Nursery furniture

The necessities:

  • Crib or co-sleeper
  • Crib mattress

It's nice to have:

  • 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)


  • A secondhand crib (get a new one for safety)

RELATED: Baby Products We Absolutely Can't Live Without


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

Strictly optional:

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


  • Pillows (a SIDS risk)
  • Sleep positioners (yet another SIDS risk)
  • Mattress padding (ditto)

RELATED8 Ways to Score Free Baby Products


The necessities (after 4 months):

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

It's nice to have:

  • Toilet lock
  • Corner guards for low tables

RELATED9 Child-Proofing Must-Haves

Formula feeding

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

It's nice to have:

  • Dry formula dispenser
  • Bottle sterilizer

Strictly optional:

  • Bottle warmer (heating in hot water takes the same amount of time)
  • Bottle proper (unless you have multiples and use it sparingly when you can't otherwise feed all the babies at once)

RELATEDHow to Prepare a Bottle of Formula


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)

It's nice to have:

  • 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

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

  • High chair
  • Plastic bibs
  • Infant feeding spoonsInfant bowl

It's nice to have:

  • 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


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

It's nice to have:

  • 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) 

Strictly optional:

  • A wipe warmer
  • A diaper stacker (though they're pretty)

RELATEDAge-by-Age Diaper Buying Guide

Bathing and grooming

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 

It's nice to have:

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

RELATEDThis Is How Often You Should Bathe Your Baby

Strictly optional:

  • A baby-size robe (it's hard enough to get baby dressed in her real clothes!)


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 

It's nice to have:

  • 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

Strictly optional:

  • Shoes (until baby is walking outside, i.e., the toddler years) 

RELATEDHow to Buy Baby Clothes on a Budget

Going Out

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

It's nice to have:

  • 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


  • Mirror to see baby in the car (it can be a hazard if there's an accident)
  • A secondhand car seat (always get a new one) 

First 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 


  • Car seat toy bars (an added risk if there's an accident)

RELATED7 Tips for Buying a Newborn Car Seat

For Sitting

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

It's nice to have:

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


  • Walker (get a stationary center instead, for safety)
  • Jumper (also generally considered unsafe)

RELATEDBouncy Seats, Infant Seats, and Activity Seats for Babies

For Soothing

The necessities:

  • Several pacifiers (try different brands to see which one your baby prefers)
  • Mobile for over the crib or changing table
  • Lullaby CDs or other soothing music

It's nice to have:

  • Music box made for the crib

The Medicine Cabinet

The necessities:

  • Thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Infant Tylenol
  • Nasal aspirator
  • Electrolyte drink (such as Pedialyte, to treat dehydration)

It's nice to have:

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

Get expert advice on choosing the right set of wheels for your child.

American Baby


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