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Baby essentials: The ultimate checklist of must-haves

Lise Bosch

Lise Bosch

Lise is a South African-born and Aussie-raised creative working as Kiindred's in-house writer and editor. With a journalism degree and experience in the beauty industry, she has a passion for family and lifestyle content. On her days off, she’s finding the latest and greatest brunch spots and trying to work through the longest TBR list known to humankind. It’s a work in...
Created on Jan 22, 2024 · 12 mins read

As your little one’s arrival draws closer, there’s a lot going on.

For starters, you get hit with all the feels in anticipation of meeting your baby. From excitement to nerves and a fair bit of what-iffing, your heart hasn’t found time to wind down. Then there’s all the love and attention you get showered with from friends and family, which though very thoughtful, can easily become overwhelming. And alongside all that, you’ve started imagining what life with your newborn baby will be like. What baby toys they’ll fall in love with, which night light will look cutest in their nursery, and all the adorable outfits they’ll be decked out in. That’s where the practical side of preparing for a baby lies.

You want your little one to have the best support from the get-go. Getting the right gadget for each of their needs is so important for their health and growth. Good planning takes into account the things that can go right, and the things that can go wrong. That way, when your baby arrives, you feel confident that you’ve got everything you need for those first few weeks. And though there are plenty of nice to haves, just focus on getting the baby essentials that are need to haves (little steps, right?)

It’s totally normal to feel lost with where to start. But this is where we’ve got your back, with a newborn essentials checklist that will set your family up for a whole lot of success.

Checklist of baby essentials

Baby gear and equipment

Whether going for an outing, spending time at grandma’s, or bonding together at home, there are lots of handy baby gear options to keep your little one safe and happy.

  • Infant car seat: Having a safe and sturdy car seat is mandatory, so it’s worth investing in one that can properly care for your baby. Start with an infant car seat for your tiny one, before upgrading to a convertible car seat and, eventually, a booster seat.
  • Baby pram or stroller: Once you’re looking after your newborn baby, going for outings or even just walks will become a saving grace. That’s why finding the right stroller is essential. A layback stroller is a great place to start, as it lets a snoozy newborn nod off cozily. A double-stroller is handy for juggling multiple bubs, whereas umbrella strollers are lightweight travel options that can scoot around swiftly and pack up promptly. You can usually choose between a three-wheeler and a four-wheeler, and whilst both are great options, a four-wheeler can feel a bit sturdier. Honestly, with so much pram-talk, you’ll start eyeing off strollers like you used to check out fancy cars.
  • Portable play yard: A playground that can travel with your baby? Yes, please. Popping a portable play yard or portable crib on your newborn checklist means that wherever you go, you can have a dedicated safe space for your baby to hang out. Some can even come with a built-in changing table or storage space for everything from soft toys to nursing pads and breast pumps.
  • Rocking chair: That first year of raising your little one means many late nights (not that it changes anytime soon.) But night wakings and late feedings can feel a little comfier with a rocking chair or glider that can help soothe both you and your little one. It can also become a cozy spot for dreamy bedtime stories and beautiful bonding moments.

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding

Though there are different ways of feeding, it’s happening one way or another. Regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, there will always be tricking parts to feeding your little one. Having the right tools can smooth out that journey considerably.

For breastfeeding:

  • Nursing pillow or feeding pillow: This one’s actually for both breastfeeding and formula feeds. These pillows can provide much-needed cushioning and support to avoid you having to strain. It also makes the process much more comfy and enjoyable for your little one, which can encourage your newborn baby to feed.
  • Nipple cream: Breastfeeding means sore and achy nipples, so nipple cream can really save the day.
  • Breast Pads: If you’re not already well acquainted with leaky nipples, you will be soon. Thankfully, breast pads can keep your shirts nice and dry, control that breast milk leaking and boost your confidence when going out.
  • Breast pump: Whether it’s to store milk or just relieve engorgement form breast milk, breast pumps have lots of perks for both mum and bub. You can keep it simple with a manual breast pump, or shake things up a little by upgrading to a double electric pump that sorts out both breasts at once (yep, seriously.)
  • Bottle warmer: this will help warm up breast milk that’s been in the fridge or freezier so that’s safe and tasty for your baby.

For bottle feeding:

  • 8-10 bottles and nipples for formula feed
  • Bottle brush to clean it properly
  • Bibs and burp cloths to keep things clean and tidy for your new baby

Baby clothing and accessories

You’ve probably dreamed up a pretty darn cute wardrobe for your newborn, but your baby’s clothes go beyond a cute outfit. It’s about staying on top of your little one’s temperature and comfort. Baby clothes sizes vary, but most brands order them by age range. Be sure to have a fair few options when you bring your baby home as baby must-haves.

  • 4-8 onesies/one-piece outfits
  • 4-8 shirts and pants – aim for stretchy pants so they can be comfy
  • Newborn hats – brimmed for summer or a knit hat for winter
  • A few sweaters and jackets
  • Socks and booties (no shoes yet before they start walking)

Baby nursery

While it’s handy to dream up a whole Pinterest board for a gorgeous nursery – don’t forget the practical stuff! Your baby’s nursery needs to be more than just pretty, it needs to be functional. Sleep support comes from the right baby furniture, baby bedding and other thoughtfully purchased baby equipment. So make sure to set up sound sleeping arrangements for them.

Some baby must haves for this one are:

  • Baby monitor: this one’s for safety as well as your own peace of mind. You can keep an eye on your sleeping baby and make sure they’re snoozing soundly. Many find that it helps reassure them when it comes to fear of sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Crib mattress: you want a flat and firm mattress that snugly in the crib for when your baby falls asleep.
  • Crib or bassinet: both are safe options for little ones but there are pros and cons to each. Your baby’s sleep is important, so it’s worth doing your research and weighing up your options.
  • Fitted crib sheets: Another baby bedding essentials, keep around 2-4 of these
  • Diaper change table or changing pad: every parent gets very familiar with this one. Having it right there in the nursery helps tackle explosions sooner, and keeps the stink out of the main spaces.
  • Toy storage: what’s a nursery without a spot to store toys? A dedicated home for your newborn baby’s will mean a cleaner, more organised room and less stepping on toys (ouch!)

Baby diapering

The least glamorous of all things baby prep – yep, you’ve got to be ready for those nappy changes too. Whether you opt for simple single use or reusable cloth products, the tricky part is making sure you’ve got enough of everything for any string of disasters.

  • Unscented baby wipes (at least a few boxes)
  • 3 large boxes of disposable newborn-size nappies or up to 10 dozen cloth ones
  • Nappy cream to take care of pesky diaper rash and look after your baby’s skin.
  • Nappy bag to prep for any messy situation, on the go

Baby bathing

Bath time will no doubt bring all sorts of joy for your family, and so many cute moments. Make those memories even better with all the right gear to get the most out of it, and wash your baby safely.

Some bath time baby must haves are:

  • Baby bath: since your newborn can’t hold up their own head yet, they need a special little tub to support and contain them. A baby bath seat could also be an option to support newborns in bathtime.
  • Baby shampoo or cleanser: When it comes to cleansing, you want something really gentle that’s free from nasties. Gentle skin products are the go to, and something simple to wash your baby’s hair. Often you can get a two-in-one to speed things up.
  • Soft washcloths: these can help you wash your baby gently and get into nooks and crannies (just not the eyes)
  • Baby towels: Opting for a hooded baby towel means you can keep your new baby nice and warm after bath time. So cosy!

Baby safety and health essentials

From the obvious to the “I never thought of that!”, there’s baby equipment to meet needs you didn’t know existed. Having a few of the following baby must-haves on your person means you can whip out a handy solution any time, any place.

  • First aid kit: The good news is, these come pre-packed and ready to go for you. Having a few is a good idea, so you can have on in the car, in the home and in the nursery.
  • Baby nail trimmer: Hello tiny, wriggly fingers! Giving these adorable digits a trim sounds downright terrifying (they’re so little) but there a special baby nail clippers to help you out. Nobody likes claws for hands, not even on a cute baby.
  • Baby thermometer: It can be hard to judge if your little one is sick or still just hot from the bath. Take the guesswork out of it and opt for a baby thermometer that tells you right then and there.

Playtime essentials

Lest we forget about play! Having playtime essentials is a must for your little one’s learning and development. Play has bucketloads of benefits for babies, so you’ll want to encourage it as much as possible

  • Soft toys: safe and cozy options for newborns, stuffed animals and toys are heaps of fun to hold and cuddle with
  • Play station or toy arch: tummy time should start happening soon after birth, even if it’s just for a couple minutes at a time. Having a special, comfy spot for them to do it in encourages their growth and makes for a happier baby!
  • Baby mobile: your little baby is taking in a whole world, with curious eyes. A baby mobile gives them a visual feast to soothe them, intrigue them and capture their interest. Though it’s often thought of as a sleep tool, the visual stimulation is great for their play and growth.
  • Small rattle: touch and sound is key for your babies development, and little rattle helps get these gears turning.

How to save money on baby essentials

I know what you’re thinking – that’s a lot of baby products. How on earth does one have a baby on a budget? And while there are some essentials that aren’t so essential, there also a couple things you can’t skim on. But there are ways to outsource, reuse and life-hack your way through this exciting and stressful time.

  • Baby shower: the cheapest way to get goodies (besides stealing, don’t steal) is getting them as gifts! Set up a gift registry online so people know what you need and what you’ve got covered, and let the essentials get to you! If a gift registry feels a little formal for you, drop some hints or wait for someone to ask you (but know what you need so you can tell them)
  • Go for products that grow: instead of buying separate items for every growth stage of your little one, invest in products that can grow up with your child. Whether it’s fitted with adjustments or can be reused like cloth products.
  • Source the sales: get your friends and family researching for any sales that might be going around, and make the most of them. Sign up for newsletters and keep your eyes peeled for a juice discount or coupon, wherever you go. Remember that influencers have tons of discount codes, so find some mummy bloggers that can get you the goods.

The rundown on second-hand gear

You might have family or friends with growing kids that could lend you some clothes or equipment. Or, you might source things at second-hand stores or flea markets. For most baby essentials, it’s totally okay to reuse or buy second-hand. But be mindful that there are certain things that need to be bought new for the safety and health of your baby.

Safe to reuse:

  • Clothes
  • Baby baths
  • Toys
  • Prams
  • Changing table

Unsafe to reuse:

  • Cots
  • Mattresses
  • Baby gates
  • Infant car seats
  • Breast pumps

In case you haven’t noticed, preparing for a baby is no walk in the park. There’s a lot to keep in mind and tools to support every step. Just take it one item at a time, and feel the win of ticking each one off your list. Organisation is everything. But if you’re overwhelmed or struggling to find options, reach out to your support network. There are organisations such as Birthline and the Nappy Collective that can provide essential baby care for families in need.

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