OFB’s Top 10 Newborn Essentials

Sally Newborn

When I was pregnant with Sally, I remember scouring all kinds of newborn essentials lists. I was (as always) trying to stick to a budget, and I was a bit dubious of what some people deemed “essential.” Did I really need a Diaper Genie and Sophie the Giraffe to survive motherhood??

The second time around, I don’t have to rely on anyone else’s lists since I’ve already tried and tested everything. Even though it’s baby #2, I still feel this innate need to be as prepared as humanly possible. So when we moved to New York City, I wanted to bring every single baby item we owned. But we couldn’t. Instead I had to ask myself, Is this really essential? 

And so I wanted to share what I’ve found to be totally, completely essential with a newborn. I narrowed it down to my top 10, and these specific items really made a difference for me in transitioning to motherhood those first few weeks. For any moms-to-be out there, I hope these help. And I’d love to hear others’ essentials, too!

Our Freaking Budget Newborn Essentials — Absolute favorite newborn necessities worth splurging on those first few weeks!

1. Boppy

For the first three months, I don’t think I ever nursed without this pillow. The baby is just so tiny that having her propped up properly is a huge help to ensuring she latches on correctly and stays latched on. It also took a lot of the work out of it for me, which is a win-win for an exhausted new mom.

2. Medela Breast Pump

I was unsure whether I’d use a pump, but from the very beginning, I realized it was absolutely necessary. The hospital gave me the manual pump I have listed here, so your hospital might also. One of my sisters gave me her electric pump, and I ended up using both the manual and electric equally often for different situations. Insurance companies are now required to cover breast pumps, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and this site can help you know what your insurance covers.

3. Swaddle Blankets

Why doesn’t anyone emphasize how much new parents will rely on swaddling those first few months? For four months straight, Sally didn’t sleep unless she was bundled up like a burrito. Someone gave me some Aden + Anais swaddle blankets the first time around, and they immediately became the favorite in our house. I even splurged on a new set for baby #2’s arrival. (I don’t think the brand matters so much as just that general style of swaddling blanket.)

4. Pampers Swaddlers

As you well know, we’re all about saving money. The hospital gave us a pack of Pampers Swaddlers, but I was determined to try out cheaper brands as well. Welp, I soon found that no other diaper avoided newborn blowouts like Pampers Swaddlers. They were essential to saving our sanity (and our carpet). Once nursing babies start eating solids and stop having straight liquid everything in their diapers, other brands work just fine. But until that point, Swaddlers are the way to go. (Side note: I cut down on costs by using Amazon Prime + Amazon Mom + Subscribe & Save + buying in bulk.)

5. Baby Bjorn

For the first few months, we usually opted to carry our newborn on outings rather than use a stroller, so having a good carrier was a must. We could use this carrier from day one, and it grew with us as Sally grew. When she was ready to face the world instead of our chests, we didn’t have to buy a new carrier, which was a plus.

6. Fisher-Price Bouncer

This is one of the most basic bouncers out there, but it does the trick just as well as any of the others. Johnny and I had no idea how much newborn babies would need to be bounced and moved to be soothed. We could put Sally in this bouncer and rock her with one foot, and she’d fall asleep within seconds. I never could have guessed how much we’d rely on such a simple item.

7. Munchkin White Noise Machine

From day one, we found that Sally fell and stayed asleep more easily with white noise. For the first little while, we just used an app on our phones to avoid spending money. But when we moved her to her own room, we bought this white noise machine. It’s one of the least expensive options, and it’s worked great. Sally still uses it to this day as a nightlight and to drown out all the lovely sounds of NYC.

8. Baby Connect App

One aspect of parenthood that really threw Johnny and me for a loop was giving up control of our lives to our baby. It quickly became clear who dictated our time — and it wasn’t either of us. To restore some order, I realized it was essential to get Sally on a good feeding schedule from the start. With this app, I could time each feeding, remember which side to nurse on, and know how long it had been since Sally had last nursed. I’m planning to use it again with baby #2.

9. Bravado Nursing Bra

It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with Amazon reviews, which is how I stumbled upon this nursing bra. When you’re nursing, there’s no taking your bra off at night. You have to wear some sort of support 24/7. So it needs to be very comfortable and supportive. I wore this bra around the clock the first few months and continued wearing it at night until I quit nursing. I loved everything about it.

10. Lansinoh Nursing Pads

Without getting too detailed or descriptive, suffice it to say a new mom’s milk supply has a mind of its own the first few months. I tried a few different nursing pad brands, and I was hoping to use some that were washable in order to cut down on costs. But the washable ones just weren’t enough the first few months. They led to embarrassing, leaky situations. These pads, however, kept me looking like a normal, totally in control human who was not leaking milk for the whole world to witness. So until your milk supply gets ahold of itself, I can’t recommend this brand enough.

Whew! Apparently, I have a lot to say about life with a newborn. I hope this list is helpful for any new or expecting moms who are still trying to figure out their own essentials. It’s only been two years since Sally was born, but I feel so far removed from the world of babies! I’ve spent the last few weeks brushing up on all my newborn books. Fellow moms, what are your can’t-live-without-it newborn essentials? I’d really love to hear!

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  • Reply Carly March 12, 2015 at 8:40 am

    I’m not a new mom nor will I be for a while, but these are all great points. I was looking for a practical gift for my sis-in-law when she was expecting. I didn’t want to get things that were just going to collect dust. I ended up settling for some baby toys and stroller hooks… that’s all I could guess that were helpful things. I’m bookmarking this post so I have ideas for my friends who are expecting!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      I’m sure your sis-in-law loved those. It’s hard to justify buying your own baby toys, so that was a perfect gift to give her!

  • Reply Andrea March 12, 2015 at 9:10 am

    We’re expecting our first baby in 15 short weeks. This post could not have come at a better time. Thank you!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      Congrats!! How exciting! It will be here before you know it!

  • Reply Amy March 12, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Love this list! I am due close to the same time as you – less than 4 weeks with my first! Question regarding the Baby Connect app – there seem to be SO Many. What made you go with this one? I will GLADLY pay for an app that is worth it but notice there is a range of prices and choices and would love to hear why you went with this one! Thanks for all your help!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      I actually bought the app back when Sally was born, so there may be better free options now. One thing I really liked is that it times from start of feeding to the start of the next feeding and how long on each side/which side to start on in a very easy, intuitive way. I’m all about keeping a schedule with a newborn. And then I liked being able to track other things (like diaper changes) since that’s important the first couple of weeks with making sure the baby is staying hydrated/getting enough milk. It’s the only one I have personally used, so I’d recommend downloading some of the free ones first and seeing if they do the job! And big congrats on your baby on the way!!! It sounds like it will be here any day!!

  • Reply Becca March 12, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Hey Joanna,

    My little one is 4.5 months and as a new mom I completely went overboard in preparing for him. However, looking back on his newborn days, weeks, how long are they newborns? I think your list is perfect! I would suggest the Target brand of disposable nursing pads, I had no problem with them and may save you some money and also some nursing cami’s to wear at night. Those didn’t seem as uncomfortable. As a routine reader of OFB I’m so happy for your family! Best wishes during this exciting time!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Nice! Thanks for the recommendations! I would love to try a cheaper brand of nursing pads. And someone else recommended nursing cami’s, too, so I’m planning to order a couple before baby gets here!

  • Reply kristen March 12, 2015 at 9:19 am

    so, i’m not a mother (yet) but i keep going back and forth on these two items: swing (like a snugabunny) and glider / rocker. thoughts? i really don’t want to get anything more than we need, both for $$ and sanity.

    • Reply Courtney March 12, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Hey- I just thought I’d reply to your comment. I have two little ones and I think Joanna’s list is spot on. With the exception of the app, I have used all these things and found them extremely helpful. I did not have a swing with my first, but we bought one with our second and it was wonderful! Neither of my babies have been good at sleeping except while being held, and the swing was the answer to that! As for a glider, we have one and I love it so much. We bought it second hand off craigslist so it only cost us $50 and has held up well through two babies. If you are nursing, I think a comfortable place to nurse and rock the baby will save your sanity and your back/neck (I am not one to nurse in bed) especially for middle of the night feedings. That’s my two cents on those! I don’t think either is absolutely essential, but they I think they will make your life easier. If you can only pick one, I’d go with a comfortable glider. Hope this helps!

      • Reply kristen March 16, 2015 at 12:43 pm

        thank you so much Courtney!! Very helpful 🙂

      • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:54 pm

        Thanks for these tips, Courtney! Great advice!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Agree with Courtney! Every baby is different, and Sally didn’t use the swing much, which is why I didn’t add it to my list. Maybe this baby will be different. For a glider, I would put it as a “nice to have,” but I tended to nurse in bed with pillows propped behind me and the Boppy for the baby. Once again, personal preference. When the time comes, you’ll figure out what works best for you!

  • Reply Terri Frandsen March 12, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I have been in the market for a good nursing bra and this one looks so comfy! When I had my first, I tried the cheap ones from Target and they were horrible. These seem pricier but when you’re nursing, it’s worth the money!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Yes, it was hard to swallow the price the first time around, but it’s super comfy, and since I’ll be wearing it 24/7, it was well worth it!

  • Reply Jena March 12, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Great list!

    My daughter didn’t like the bouncer thing, but she loved the boppy lounger – basically just a big pillow with an indention for her body to fit – It was easy to move all over the house so she could always be near us without having to haul a giant contraption around.

    The baby bjorn is not really a recommended carrier for babies – not the one you pictured, at least. That carrier is not an ergonomic carrier – it allows the baby’s legs to dangle rather than be seated in a more natural “M” position. You can read more about the importance of ergonomic carriers here http://reviewbabycarriers.net/importance-of-ergonomics/

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Ah, yes, the ergonomic issue… I forgot about that. I don’t think it was as big of a debate when Sally was born. I’ll ask my pediatrician about it, but just in case, we’ve got an Ergo we can use. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Reply Tarynkay March 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Our son was one of those babies who was an absolute angel as long as someone was always holding him. So we relied heavily first on the Moby wrap and later the Ergo. He is three years old now and we still use the Ergo for him on longer hikes, so that was a good investment.

    I also loved travel mugs as a sort of adult sippie cup. That way I didn’t spill coffee on his tiny newborn head.

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      I have a feeling we’ll be doing a lot of carrying with this baby in the city. We have an Ergo as well as the Bjorn, so we’ll see which one becomes the favorite on our outings.

      And good tip on the travel mugs! I wouldn’t have thought of that!

  • Reply Yvann March 12, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Totally agree with the majority of these. I would add: a fleecy blanket – our baby squalled and screamed for hours the first night home from the hospital – because she was cold. Grandma sent a fleecy blanket the next day and peace was restored! brilliant for wrapping her up in like a burrito, holding her in to cure hiccups (go figure), going in the pram…

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Good call! I forget how much newborns need to be kept warm, especially those first few weeks. Thanks for the tip!

  • Reply Nicole March 12, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Great list! The FP Rock n’ Play is probably my top newborn item. Easy to move around the house and use as a bassinet at night. I also used the Moby a ton when my babes were newborns, then moved on to the Becco when they got bigger. I’m a big baby-wearer!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      I can’t remember if I wore Sally much, although I bet we’ll be wearing this baby much more in this city where we walk everywhere!

  • Reply Megyn March 12, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    My list would be similar, but here are the slight variations:

    -Kiddopotamus swaddlers instead of swaddling blankets
    -In-bed co-sleeper (safe)–made it so I could nurse and sleep!!!
    -Wipes (we did cloth dipes, but not wipes)
    -A good baby wash (California Baby or Burt’s Bees)
    -Sling & Moby wrap
    -BABY SHOES! Ok, not a necessity, but that’s the one thing I got to dress our boys up in. Even as newborns, they always had shoes 😉

    For white noise, we just used a fan turned at the wall when needed. And the Boppy never worked well for me as I was too petite for it, so I just used a pillow or nursed on my side.

    As for those wondering about swings v. bouncers, here’s what a lot of veteran moms suggest: borrow both to see what your baby likes before buying one. I had one that loved the bouncer and one that hated both.

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      I do need to get a few swaddlers for this baby! I’m horrible at swaddling, so I relied heavily on Johnny’s skills last time around. And oh boy did we rely on pacifiers! I’m hoping this baby likes them as much as Sally did!

      Thanks for adding your great tips, Megyn!

  • Reply kyla March 12, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    A good list but I wouldn’t call all the things essential- I guess it just shows how different each baby is. I haven’t swaddled either of my two kids we have a 2.5 year old and a 3 month old so that is one thing that I have never needed. I agree with a prior commenter that the dangling baby carrier isn’t the way to go we have a Beco Gemini and love it and use it every day for hours. Also we have never done white noise and feed on demand so no schedule kept oh and no nursing pillow ever used. Perhaps for our family our list would only comprise 6 essentials. I do love though that your list isn’t crazy long like so many are. I totally agree on the pampers swaddles and nursing pads.

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      True! Babies are different… thanks for mentioning that! We have an Ergo, so if my pediatrician nixes the Bjorn, I’ll use that this time around instead. I think these essentials are probably also indicative of my personality… I am all for schedule and control, ha! Thanks for the reminder that it definitely doesn’t have to be just one way to work just as well!

  • Reply B March 13, 2015 at 8:29 am

    This list is awesome! I wrote a few of those items down to register for! Can’t wait to hear all about your new adventure!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks! We’re in countdown mode now! 🙂

  • Reply Randi March 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    i couldn’t have lived without the rock n play, or my nursing tanks from target. I hated nursing bras of any sort and spent about the first 6 months in nursing tanks.

    • Reply Joanna March 15, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      Ohh, thanks! I’m very intrigued by the nursing tank. I think I’m gonna order one from Target and give it a try. Any specific brand you’d recommend?

      • Reply Randi March 16, 2015 at 4:41 pm

        The brand I used was Gilligan & Omalley. I found it super easy to wear with a cardigan over it. I could never make shirts work without exposing my whole stomach.

        • Reply Joanna March 16, 2015 at 10:39 pm

          Thanks, Randi! I can totally relate. I’m excited to give them a try!

  • Reply Jenni March 16, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Side note for #6: We always kept a bouncy seat in our bathroom so I had somewhere to put the baby when I went to the bathroom and took a shower. Bonus that the white noise from the shower usually led to a snoozing baby! And we also had a small travel swing for the kitchen/dining room so she had somewhere to sit whenever I was cooking or when we were eating dinner.

    – Baby K’tan carrier (I used a Bjorn for babies 1 and 2 but then was enlightened about hip positioning!) which is kind of like a wrap but easier to use.
    – Earth Mama Angel Baby brand Mama Bottom Balm and Bottom Spray for post partum and Nipple Butter instead of lanolin.
    – My favorite nursing pads are the Nuk Ultra Thin because they are absorbant but very lightweight.
    – Infant probiotics were one of the best things we discovered. My babies have all had dairy sensitivities and they helped keep things in check, not to mention there is a lot of research that links a healthy gut to good health in general. Udo’s Choice Infant’s Probiotic is my favorite and I would just put some of the powder on my finger and stick it in my babies’ mouths.
    – Love infant gowns (like Sweepea from Popeye) for easy diaper changes, andf bring some to the hospital too!
    – Coconut oil makes the best diaper cream! Put some on and rashes go away overnight.

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      We had the same experience with using a bouncy seat for Sally in our bathroom! She’d always fall asleep while I was in the shower. Luckily, one should do the trick since our apt. is so tiny!

      And thanks for mentioning the probiotic! I’ll have to give that a try if this baby seems to be having a hard time with milk!

  • Reply Rachel March 19, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I thought your list was great. My LO is 6.5 months old and I used 5 of your 10 often. I agree that Pampers Swaddlers are by far the best for newborn poops! I had several other moms tip me off to this early — so I was sure to stock up until he was on solids. We now use cloth — and that was an adventure all on its own — but we are trying to save money (and the environment). The bouncer was another item mothers told me was essential. It is true that you can’t always hold/rock/bounce your newborn — and having this on hand was a guilt-free option! I used several different nursing bras — but like you I found that the Bravado were the best. Best fit, most comfortable — and when you are wearing them 24/7 that is key! I also went through the same situation with breast pads and settles on this brand as well. I used the Lanolin cream often — something I would deem essential if a mother is breastfeeding!!! I loved the swaddle blankets — but I used them more for breastfeeding covers in public than swaddling at night — he was not a fan. We have a baby bjorn — but I am currently considering a different style than the one I have. We should have gone all out at the beginning and gotten the all in one (front, hip, back) option — as now that we are using it more — and plan on taking a trip — a back option would be helpful. I know that Baby Bjorn makes one — but it is way out of our budget — so I am currently looking at Ergo Carrier. Hope these help. Your list was great!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Great to hear your thoughts, Rachel! We have the Ergo and have really loved it. It’s crazy how easy it makes carrying around a hefty baby (which Sally definitely was!). And I’m happy to hear yours and others affirmations on Pamper Swaddlers. I wish they weren’t so expensive, but oh boy are they sanity savers those first few months!

  • Reply Yvann April 17, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I have another addition: we have a little “bath seat” for our 8-week-old. It’s not one of the plastic, more upright ones you get for bigger babies who can sit up, it’s very reclined and made of cloth – it’s a cross between a deckchair and a hammock! (don’t know if your comments policy permits links, but this is the one we got – UK only link I’m afraid http://www.johnlewis.com/john-lewis-baby-bath-support/p619603 )
    Normally when you’re bathing a baby, you need 3 hands – one to hold it and two to wash it. This makes bathing babies possible for mere mortals. As a result, bathing the slippery little beast has not been terrifying.

  • Reply Robin B June 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Great article. Do wooden bath seats like these create a lot of mold?: http://www.shoppingblox.com/showerchairsandbathseats

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