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Preparing for Baby: What to Buy and What Not To

May 28, 2015

The first time you walk into any baby store—or even just meander into the baby section at a store like Target—can feel overwhelming. Aisles upon aisles, shelves upon shelves and display after display of this gadget, that tool and another alleged “must-have.” It’s a lot to take in and can be tricky to figure out what you actually, truly will need for your baby.

Before you take the plunge and start filling your cart, find out what you need, and what you don’t, for your baby.

Baby Items You Can’t Live Without

Start simple by listing the basics, the essentials, the absolutely-positively-need-to-raise-a-baby items. To help even more, organize your list by categories, using the same categories stores use so you can best match items.

Here’s our list of “essentials” for your baby:


  • Bottles, if you plan to bottle feed (either pumped breast milk or formula)
  • Formula, whether to supplement breastfeeding or to use exclusively
  • Bottle brush
  • Bottle warmer
  • Nursing pillow, like a Boppy or My Breast Friend (helpful for feeding baby, regardless if breastfeeding or bottle feeding)
  • Breast pump (tip: check with your insurance company to see what it provides under the Affordable Care Act)
  • Breastfeeding accessories if nursing: Nursing pads, nursing bra, lanolin cream

When you start feeding baby solids, you will need a few additional items:

  • Baby spoons
  • Small bowls
  • High chair or seat to strap to a chair
  • Bib


  • Diapers (the hospital may send you home with free diapers—score!)
  • Wipes
  • Diaper rash cream


  • Crib (if space is an issue, look into a mini crib)
  • Mattress
  • Waterproof mattress pad
  • Crib sheet/bedding
  • Swaddle blankets
  • Baby monitor


  • Car seat (check out Safe for information on car seat ratings and recall)
  • Stroller (tip: get a stroller compatible to your car seat or an adapter so you can snap your car seat into the stroller to use during the time before your baby can sit up in the stroller)
  • Diaper bag, or a bag dedicated to carrying baby items, such as diapers, wipes, change of outfit, etc.


  • Onesies (long-sleeve or short-sleeve depending on the season/weather)
  • Socks
  • 5-7 outfits
  • 4-6 sleepers/pajamas (tip: go for the zip-up sleepers, because you’ll find yourself fumbling with buttons or struggling to get all of the snaps during those middle-of-the-night feedings)
  • Outwear for the appropriate season, such as a zip-up hoodie, mittens, winter coat, etc.


  • Toys, such as a rattle, musical toy, etc.
  • Board books
  • Play mat or play gym
  • Bouncer


  • Outlet covers
  • Toilet lid lock
  • Blinds cord wrap/cover

Non-Essential but Popular Items

The items that fall under essential really vary by who you ask. Some items may be absolute must-haves, can’t-live-without for one parent, while another parent only uses the “basics” and has no need for anything else.

As you prepare for the new addition to your family, some other popular but necessarily “essential” items include:

  • Baby carrier or wrap, such as an Ergo Baby Carrier or Solly Baby Wrap
  • Car seat cover
  • Changing pad and a changing table
  • Diaper pail
  • Noise maker or music player for the nursery
  • Portable crib, like a Graco Pack N Play or 4moms Breeze
  • Special laundry detergent, such as Dreft
  • Wipe warmer

Tips for Buying for Baby

  • Not sure if you need an item? When I was expecting, I purchased many items in advance of my baby’s arrival, but found later I didn’t end up using it. If you’re on the fence about purchasing something, wait until the time your baby will actually use it (e.g., a high chair—you don’t need it at birth and won’t actually use it until your baby starts solids) and then make the decision then. Alternatively, ask a friend if you can borrow their baby carrier or toy before purchasing one to see if your baby enjoys it or will actually use it.
  • It’s hard enough knowing what you’ll need, but it gets even tougher knowing which brand or model to purchase. Check out reviews, ratings and research the product online to see what others are saying. Poll your friends, too, to see what they recommend.
  • It’s one thing to read about or see pictures of a product online, but it’s a totally different experience to see it person and test it out. Take time to visit a store with a brick-and-mortar location, like Buy Buy Baby, Target or Babies R Us, to try out baby items, such as a stroller, portable crib, etc. Even if you end up purchasing the item online in the end, having actually touched and tested the product makes a big difference in your decision and satisfaction with the product.

Remember, every parent and every baby is different. You may find that your list of “needs” is bigger than what we shared above. Find what works best for you and what helps you best care for your baby and go with that. Best of luck and congrats on your new addition!

Author Bio

Owlet Blog Team

This blog was written as a team effort! Blog contributions range from sleep experts to first-time moms and dads.