The Minimalist’s Guide to Baby Gear

Allison Klaine

So you’re having a baby! It’s a wonderful time in your life full of new experiences, an overwhelming love you never knew was possible, and the knowledge that in a short time you will be snuggling the most perfect little creature on the planet.

It’s also a time of panic.

You can’t have a baby yet–what about all the stuff it needs? You’ve leafed through the magazines at your doctor’s office and the lists of gear you must have are long. Really long. Wipe-warmers. The headset that goes on your tummy so baby can listen to Mozart in utero. Strollers that cost more than a mortgage payment. They need this stuff right? I mean, how will they learn to roll over without a play gym for tummy time? How will your baby learn math if they have to wait nine whole months to hear Mozart?

Before you know it, your house is full of every baby gadget and tool available.

You have a bassinet, co-sleeper, bouncer chair, swing, crib, Moses basket, travel swing, bumbo seat, exersaucer, play mat, high chair, bottles, bibs, and enough outfits to start your own baby boutique. You haven’t even announced your pregnancy yet and you’re already broke and confined to one room of the house by all the stuff marketed at you you need for baby.

Let me be that voice in your head: Stop right this very minute. Save your money, your sanity, and take a deep breath while I tell you what you really need the first few months of your baby’s life. It’s less than you think. And then hope you saved your receipts.

1. Something to wear baby in. Skip most of the mass-market brands for an ergonomic carrier like the Boba or Beco Soleil. Both are much better for you and baby. A wrap like the Moby or Je Porte Mon Bebe are also favorites. These wraps help baby make it through the fourth trimester and gives them the feeling of still being inside the womb. A stroller is useless until baby is much older or you have a second child.

2. Swaddling Blankets. My absolute favorite blankets are the Aden & Anais swaddle blankets. They can be used for everything–swaddling, nursing, a mat for tummy time. They can even be used as a towel to wipe up various bodily fluids that generally escape baby at the most inopportune times. The swaddlers come in muslin and this crazy-soft bamboo, too. I still have a few lying around that make great superhero capes for big kids.

3. A travel swing. No bells, no whistles, just a little swing. I was a stay-at-home-mom to two under two. I am a hardcore baby-wearing advocate, but you still need to take showers. Plus, some chores just can’t be done while wearing baby, and that’s when a travel swing will save your sanity. I know the big cushy-looking swings look cute, but they take up a huge amount of space, go through batteries like crazy, and you can’t move them with you from room to room.

4. Onesies, cotton pants, and footed sleepers. Baby outfits are adorable and hard to resist, and yes everyone you’ve ever met will buy you 500 impractical newborn outfits that will never be worn, or will be worn and pooped on in seconds flat. I was always a fan of Carter’s because everything they sell coordinates. The little footed sleepers are also perfect and very easy to change diapers in. So, skip the newborn skinny jeans for outfits that are soft, easy, and can stand up to a blowout without you or baby crying over it.

5. Cloth diapers and wipes. You can spend as much or as little on this as you want. I usually recommend 24 diaper changes so you don’t have to do laundry every day. Prefolds and covers can be purchased for a fraction of the cost you would spend on disposables. All in ones are great to put on registries because it gives people something cute and practical to buy, and one sizes can be used from the newborn stage through potty training. And just think of all the impulse items you WON’T buy at Target or Wal-mart on late-night diaper runs.

6. A convertible car seat. I think this one goes without saying. Not many people think about it, but some convertible car seats can go from newborn until you move your child to a booster. This would be your splurge for which you use the money you’ve saved not buying everything else on Earth. Remember to check rear-facing limits and buy one that can keep your little one rear facing as long as possible.

Honorable mention: A pack-n-play with a bassinet. Both of my kids co-slept in bed with us after we researched safe co-sleeping. However, if you don’t feel comfortable having baby in bed with you, a pack-n- play right next to your bed is a great option. You are still at arm’s reach but you have your own space. They are also great napping spots when baby is older, and can be taken to grandma’s or on vacation with little hassle.

Remember, you can always buy more things you find you need later, but when you’re wide-eyed and naïve in the world of baby marketing, this list will get you by until you get some street smarts.

Allison Klaine is raising her two kids and two dogs in Southern Illinois. She hopes to share her passion for cloth diapering, living with less, and JJ Abrams television shows.

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