Baby Shopping Guide: Must-Haves (and the Don’t-Needs) for Your New Baby

Going shopping for new items for your baby? Here are the must-haves (and the don’t-needs) to help you shop smart.

Baby in crib Alexandra Grablewski

Around the House

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.”

    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)


        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)


            The necessities (not an issue until 4 months or later):

            ____ 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


              For 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)

                For breastfeeding

                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)

                  Solid-food feeding

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

                  ____ High chair

                  ____ Plastic bibs

                  ____ Infant feeding spoons

                  ____ Infant 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)

                    Basic Baby Care

                    For diapering

                    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)

                      For 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

                      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)

                          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)

                              Just for Fun

                              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)

                                  For sitting baby in

                                  The necessities:

                                  ____ 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)

                                      When Something’s Wrong

                                      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

                                        How to Pick the Perfect Stroller for Your Baby

                                        All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.