baby proof: newborn essentials, revisited.

January 29, 2020
newborn essentials

Last week, as I tend to do regularly and especially anytime I’m feeling stressed, I spent some time rearranging our linen closet. This time, instead of only folding pillowcases into neat rectangles, I also focused on making room for new baby essentials. Due to some nerve-racking complications, there’s an increasing likelihood we’ll have a little one making a February debut instead of a March one. As I do my best to practice letting go and deep breathing and all of the things required for moving forward into the unknown, I turned to my comfort rituals: shifting around towels and sheets and folding impossibly tiny onesies into neat rows to tuck inside an old wine crate turned makeshift drawer.

The process got me thinking about the list of tangibles we’ve really needed when readying ourselves for the arrival of a new baby in the past and what we have ready to go now. For us, the list of newborn essentials has shifted only slightly since Faye was born and my sister wrote this guest post, but in case it’s helpful, below is a breakdown of what we’ve found to be necessary and what we’ve found to be nice to have.

We’ve found that in terms of material goods necessary for our newborns, our list has been small and straightforward. We’ve opted for supplies without bells and whistles, but to be sure the baby industrial complex has made certain that there are endless iterations of and improvements on everything mentioned here, along with a great many additional items you won’t find here at all. The babies we’ve welcomed to this point have also had very straightforward needs. They didn’t require special care or equipment that are crucial for other families and babies. Whether you choose or need to go a different route is entirely up to you, but for folks who are hoping or able to keep things pared down, I hope this list provides some inspiration and guidance.

newborn essentials

Necessary:

+ Diapers: We used cloth diapers for our first babies and plan to again this time around. Because we don’t have a washer and dryer in our apartment (or building), we’ve used the very terrific local service Diaperkind to launder our diapers, but for folks who aren’t local and who are equipped to launder diapers themselves, their newly launched Esembly cloth diapering essentials might be something you’d like to check out. (Full disclosure: I’ll be taking them for a test-drive once this little one arrives, so will have more to report on that soon enough.)

+ Wipes: We used disposable wipes with Faye and cloth wipes with Silas and with this new baby, we’ll likely use a combination of both. Either way, there’s a whole lot of bottom wiping that happens in the early months (and, yes, years) so being equipped to handle those messes quickly and easily has been essential for us. For disposable wipes, we’ve always used WaterWipes.

+ Coconut oil: I swear by coconut oil for diaper changes. As long as we’ve lubed up baby bottoms with coconut oil during diaper changes, we’ve been rash free and able to go on our merry way. In our apartment, it’s usually warm enough (summer and winter) for the oil to stay fairly soft and it warms up very quickly on tiny warm bottoms. We use whatever organic coconut oil is available at our local grocery store.

+ Burp cloths: Spit up, unexpected fountains of pee, or any other kind of body fluid that tends to show up in the newborn days can be quickly and easily sopped up with burp cloths. We’ve had best luck using thick, super-absorbent organic cotton prefolds (otherwise known as traditional cloth diapers) for this purpose.

+ Swaddles: We’ve only ever used classic square cotton muslin or linen swaddles for our kids. I love that they fold neatly and that they’re useful for a whole range of things beyond just swaddling. There are many, many kinds of alternatives out there with snaps and zippers and other kinds of fasteners that might prove even easier, but we haven’t felt the need to venture beyond the simplest ones.

+ Cozy clothes: Keeping a little thing clothed and cozy feels fairly essential. Again here, we’ve gone a simple route with an assortment of soft cotton and wool baby clothes, onesies, and footie pajamas. Specifics decidedly don’t matter, but we’ve especially enjoyed staples from Mabo and L’oved Baby.

+ Feeding supplies: I’ve breastfed both of my kids and have plans to do that with this little one, too. Because I work for myself, I don’t have a paid maternity leave of any kind, but this time around, James is taking parental leave from his job to care for our baby in the earliest months. In preparation for pumping, storing, and offering milk from a bottle when I’m not available to nurse, we’ve gathered some basic supplies: Mason Bottle Nipples to attach to 4-ounce Mason Jars we already have (we used Lifefactory Glass Baby Bottles in the past, but since I gave them all away, we’re going this route rather than reinvesting in another set of dedicated bottles) and a borrowed Willow Breast Pump in hopes it might improve my not-great relationship with pumping.

Nice to have:

+ A portable and ideally bouncy chair of some kind. We didn’t have any kind of baby chair when Faye was born, but I borrowed a Baby Bjorn Bouncer with Silas, and we’ve borrowed the same one from another friend in anticipation for the new baby. It was awfully nice to have a safe spot to settle a newborn, especially when there was another older child to also care for.

+ A crib. When Faye was born we waited months to invest in a crib and other families we know have opted out of cribs altogether. We had a simple Ikea Sniglar with Faye and Silas that we sold over the summer. This time around, we’re planning to use a mini crib we found through our neighborhood Buy Nothing Project group. It will be next to our bed in the earliest months and shifted into a little sliver of space in the kids’ room after that.

+ A sheepskin or other soft landing spot. We’ve liked having dedicated snuggle spaces for little ones, both to demarcate the space for the baby and to provide something snuggly. We were recently given this beautiful sheepskin. We love that it’s cozy and blends in with the rest of our apartment, but any soft landing spot you prefer would work here.

+ A baby carrier. Being hands-free with a newborn is a very welcome thing indeed. We used a Solly Baby Wrap and a Baby Bjorn One Carrier in the past and really liked them both, especially because they’re not sized and both James and I could wear them. Like most of our baby essentials, we passed ours along this summer, so this time around, we’re planning to use a second-hand vintage carrier we found and see how that goes. Like all of the above, there are endless options on the market and different people and backs and babies will prefer different models. If you can try on a carrier and test-drive it for yourself, that’s probably the best way to decide what’s right for you.

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39 Comments

  • Reply Erika January 29, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    I’m sorry to hear this pregnancy has been more anxiety inducing for you. Hoping you get some rest and piece of mind before the baby arrives.

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    • Reply Erika January 29, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      100% meant peace of mind. I need more sleep.

      Signed,
      Mother of a 12wk old and 2y old.

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  • Reply Judith A Ross January 29, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Sending all good thoughts to you, your family, and the new addition and hoping the stressful complications aren’t too complicated in the long run. If it helps, my first son came 5 weeks early due to an unexpected issue and he is now a strapping 6’1″ adult with a baby of his own. The best advice I got was to do exactly what you are doing — try to go with the flow and accept that you can’t control everything.

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  • Reply rachel January 29, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    sending wishes for ease in the last weeks of your pregnancy. i’m sorry you are experiencing complications and hope you are able to have a labor and birth that still feel empowering even if not what you expected. ❤️

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    • Reply Laura January 29, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      For any other pregnant moms be sure to check with your health insurance company because most should and will cover a breast pump! I had pretty lousy insurance but still managed to get an automatic one for free, which for me was crucial as a working mom that had to head to an office all day!

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  • Reply Sarah January 29, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I would highly recommend the Haakaa pump for its simplicity and brilliance! I could also see it being good for someone with a complicated pumping background. (Mom of three, all breast-fed, here… used it with my third and only wish I had had it with my first.)

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    • Reply Cece January 30, 2020 at 2:28 pm

      Yes the Haakaa is so helpful for effortlessly building up a stash of milk!

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  • Reply Claire January 29, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    Our lists are nearly identical and we had also gifted off all our baby stuff just months before finding out we were pregnant again. Last night I spent a lot of time obsessing over whether or not we really needed a “soft landing spot.” Friends have been recommending having something like dock-a-tot, bobby lounger, or snuggle me. With our first the now recalled rock and play was our everything in having an easy, portable (and safe, we had thought) spot to place the baby and where napping happened. This time around we’ll be giving a Baby Bjorn Bouncer a try and I think if a hand me down “soft landing spot” is offered, I’ll accept but I am holding off on the purchase (but being gifted a sheepskin is dreamy!). For me, an additional “nice to have” is a special breastfeeding pillow. I think the maternity pillow you got will double up as such and if I didn’t already have a hand me down maternity pillow, one of the moon shaped pillows would have been a good purchase to double up for both. Oh, another “nice to have” for us is a baby bathtub. We were gifted a fold flat mesh one so it takes up minimal room and just provides me a bit of relief from the slippery baby anxiety. No need to buy new, these are used for a short period of time so they are cheap and aplenty in the second hand market. For some, they are really unnecessary though as a towel in the sink could be fine or just bath with the baby–just a personal preference!

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  • Reply Pat January 29, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    Prayers ascending for you and the babe.

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  • Reply Danyelle January 29, 2020 at 11:11 pm

    Sending out all the best energy for your pregnancy. My daughter was born 11 weeks early but you would never know it now. Whenever you get a moment between everything, could you come up with a similar list for a preschooler/kindergartener or a toddler? I love to read simple solutions I might not have thought of before.

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  • Reply Kate Rears January 30, 2020 at 1:54 am

    All the best love to you and your family x

  • Reply Stien January 30, 2020 at 8:12 am

    Great list. We used a carrier instead of a stroller and I liked the simplicity of the idea. A second hand babycarrier is a good idea, but you may find it interesting to read something about carrying your baby ergonomically correct (bum lower than knees, soft structure in the back, … ) Perhaps the website carryingmatters.co.uk might be helpful. Not all babycarriers are very good at this point, especially the old ones are often not very ergonomically correct. But a woven wrap is always great (and nice to make a hammock too)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 30, 2020 at 8:24 am

      Oh, I know it. Very familiar with that conversation.

  • Reply Abby January 30, 2020 at 8:54 am

    Thinking of you and the little one, and sending out good thoughts for you both. My second pregnancy was a little more complicated than my first, which threw me for a loop–hadn’t I done this before? A good reminder that every pregnancy and baby is unique. But like you, it was comforting to revisit known rituals. And on a related note, as always love your list of essentials. We leaned heavily on your suggestions from Faye’s infancy for our first, and I can only agree whole-heartedly with this revised list here.

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  • Reply Allegra January 30, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Sending all the best thoughts and big hugs for you, your baby, and your family with the complications that arose! Hope everything ends up well whether the littlest babe arrives in February or March. <3

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  • Reply Helen January 30, 2020 at 11:53 am

    Echoing Abby’s comment almost exactly! We too had an easy first and a more complicated second pregnancy, which really changed my perspective on the ways in which we can possibly “manage” pregnancy, birth, etc. I too have returned to your lists/advice on these subjects at many points, and am grateful for your perspective, Erin. My midwife gave me firm instructions that there were only two websites I should visit for advice: evidence-based birth (which I heartily recommend!) and kellymom for breastfeeding support. But I would also add your blog (is it still a blog? are people still “blogging”??), which has offered such sane, simple, and inclusive advice on all things baby/kid related. I hope you are able to find as much support and calm from your own words as I have, and wishing you all the best as you and the baby get through the last weeks.

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    • Reply Scout January 30, 2020 at 7:58 pm

      Heartily would NOT recommend Evidence-Based Birth. It is incredibly ableist and misrepresents the data it purports to rely on. I am disabled and had a somewhat complex pregnancy and quit the class halfway through because I was so disgusted with it—and with how dogmatic the teacher was. Evidence should empower folks to make the choices that are right for them, not to toe a particular party line.

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  • Reply KimB. January 30, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Hi Erin, thinking of you as you get ready to birth this baby, potentially a bit earlier than expected. Thank goodness for skilled caregivers to help you and baby through this.

    1
  • Reply Laurence Breeden January 30, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Erin, Je pense à vous. Je vous souhaite un bel accouchement, un beau bébé et un printemps magnifique avec votre famille!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 30, 2020 at 4:30 pm

      Merci du fond du coeur, Laurence!

  • Reply Emily January 30, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    I’ll be thinking of you and sending hopes for a beautiful, supported birth and postpartum experience! I hope you feel safe and loved and held during this huge transition!

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  • Reply Aja January 30, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Have used just about all of these with my own baby based on your earlier posts and have loved them all! I also second all the haakaa recommendations. My little one came three weeks early after a long and complicated pregnancy and I remember well the stress and uncertainty of that time. Even just the change from a midwife to an OB shook me greatly (though now on the other side, I have only wonderful things to say about my care). Sending well wishes to you and your family!

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  • Reply Elizabeth January 30, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    Wishing you all the very best – prayers for a safe and peaceful delivery.

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  • Reply thefolia January 31, 2020 at 12:20 am

    One suggestion I tell every pregnant woman, Back Labor No More by Janie McCoy King, it’s a game changer. I can’t believe this isn’t promoted, once you do the lift, you’ll never go back. The baby must be in the right position to work and please, please be whete you want to be when you do the lift because you’ll be holding your little one within minutes. Courage.

  • Reply Alexandra January 31, 2020 at 5:41 am

    Dear Erin, I don’t have children on my own and experience pregnancy and motherhood solely trough my friends. Still I read your baby post with great interest. Your advice and thoughts are very practial and so sensible at the same time. To cherrish and comfort a new born life with a few carefully chosen things is a wonderful and hopful thing that goes beyond the practical. I’m sending you my best wishes and love for you and your growing family.

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  • Reply Caitlin January 31, 2020 at 6:50 am

    Also sending thoughts and prayers for a safe and easy-as-possible delivery. I don’t have a lot of experience with them, but just wanted to mention Babywearing International as a resource–if there is a group near you, they can be very helpful for teaching you how to wrap, and most also have baby carrier/wrap libraries where you can borrow and test out different types. Members are also likely to have wraps to pass on either for free or a reduced price.

  • Reply S January 31, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for your compassionate language here: “The babies we’ve welcomed to this point have also had very straightforward needs. They didn’t require special care or equipment that are crucial for other families and babies.” It’s so irksome (weird? gross?) how the language of minimalism overwhelmingly fails to even acknowledge the possibility of difference, or injury, or disability, and all the few or many, simple or complex — assuredly aesthetically imperfect — items that may be of absolute necessity in the care of a child (partner, self…). Very, very best wishes to you in this last month or months of pregnancy. <3

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  • Reply c January 31, 2020 at 9:31 am

    I recently went on a little search to find plastic-free baby wipes. Regular ones just started to feel like a LOT of single-use polyester. We found a whole bunch of options out there online but went with Naty for price and convenience (they’re at our local coop). Even the package is non-plastic, and compostable for those who have home compost piles. It’s feeling like a tiny teeny little weight off my chest when I reach for a wipe.

  • Reply Aelede January 31, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Hello ! We have this wipe alternative in France which is very convenient and very popular (widely, not only among people interested in the zero-waste thing) We call it liniment and it’s some kind of cleaning and protecting liquid cream made with olive oil and limewater and… that’s it ! You can use it either on disposable or washable cotton pads. I have not found it anywhere on the other (European) foreign countries we have travelled since then, only in France ‍♀️

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  • Reply Andrea H January 31, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    I love how paired down your baby gear is, a beautiful rebellion for sure. Mine are a bit older now (5 and up), but I have fond memories of cloth diapering them. It was oddly satisfying to clothe their bums in natural fibers and soft materials instead of plastics and absorbent crystals. It felt so gentle on them when they were little. And of course it’s not without fault or ick factor as they get older, but as I said, fond memories. <3 Best wishes as you try to peacefully navigate this pre-baby time.

  • Reply Anna January 31, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Erin! I had an April due date and had to wrap my head around a March baby when marginal cord insertion led to an earlier induction. Delivery went well and baby was totally fine and healthy! If your complication is similar, hopefully my story puts you a little more at ease! Sending love <3

  • Reply Taylor January 31, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    I know you’ve cherished your unmediated births so I want to pass on a positive encouragement that it’s still possible even if you get inducted! Of course no one can ever predict what will happen. But I was induced with my second birth and still avoided an epidural and any other intervention. My only goal for the birth was to never feel afraid (for too long, ha!) Anyway, best wishes to you, come what may. You’re almost done!

  • Reply Amanda Krieger February 1, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Love this list. I have four children and was amazed at how little we need, and how much everyone wants to give. “So grateful for your generosity! Baby would love to visit with you at 2am when mama needs to sleep and baby can’t settle!” I would always say with JUST A TOUCH of sarcasm.
    Sending you so many best wishes and positive thoughts. I’m sure you are ready and that the kids are absolutely bursting. xo

  • Reply Chelsea February 4, 2020 at 10:43 am

    Erin, thanks so much for posting this. I think we’re pretty close in due date and I’m certainly feeling the crunch of getting everything prepared for baby #2. This was a breath of calm, refreshing air.

    I have a question more related to your linked post about your experience pumping but I’m wondering how you stored breast milk in the freezer using mason jars? I would love to use fewer disposable plastic storage bags this time around but am having a hard time wrapping my head about the freezer milk. Using 4 oz jars seems too little but using a 12 oz could result in precious wasted milk. Any tips would be appreciated!

    Also, I’m super interested in cloth diapering though very intimidated (not to mention the lack of spousal/social support on the idea). Would you consider doing a post about your experience with a little how-to thrown in??

    Wishing you peace during these last few weeks <3

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 5, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      I used 4 ounce or 8 ounce jars and they were perfect for me. There are a few cloth diaper posts in the archives and I’ll be working on a new one later this spring!

      • Reply Chelsea February 5, 2020 at 8:07 pm

        Thank you!!! Off to search the archives 🙂

  • Reply Mackenzie February 4, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Prayers for you Erin that everything goes smoothly with the arrival of your newest babe 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 4, 2020 at 5:24 pm

      Thanks so much!

  • Reply Amanda February 7, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    I always love your baby posts Erin! Wishing you a relaxing final weeks to your pregnancy, no matter what ends up needing to happen. I just wanted to recommend that you check out Green Mountain Diapers if you aren’t familiar. They have a wonderful selection of cloth diapering and baby supplies (beyond just diapers!) in all natural fibers. We swear by their cotton flats and wool diaper covers!

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