I’ll start by saying, don’t be worried that there are one or more magical items that you truly need to have a happy baby/life with baby. It is different for everyone, and baby needs a parent or parents most of all! So as long as you are there, everything will be okay. But, since I know I loved reading these kind of posts before baby Levee came along, I thought I might as well write one of my own with my favorite items for baby to help you start your baby registry.
I actually started this post in 2017, but life got in the way, and I’m just finishing it now in 2020 in response to questions on Facebook about what we think are the most important baby items.
I want to recognize all of our friends and family that made all this stuff possible! Levee and Batty would have never had all of these amazing items and more without their love, support, and help. I was so touched by everyone who reached out to us with a note, offer of support, thoughtful words, or gift for our print nugget and Print Nugget 2: Al A. Poopy’s Revenge!
Since we know we walk to take care of most of our errands and also take long road trips several times a year, we knew we needed a good car seat that would last us throughout his years–and also a couple of other ways to transport baby. We started with the Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat, Go Green, which is totally adjustable from newborn to big kid with the compatible booster seat. Levee is still riding in it now at age 5. We got a different but similar one for our second son, Batty, since we needed one safe for a 4 lb. baby. We also went with a convertible one that we got from Target since we needed it immediately.
The thing about convertible car seats is they don’t have that “click out” feature that so many car seats have, where you see parents carrying around their babies in the little car seat “baskets.” This is okay with us! It seemed like it would be too tempting to leave them in there a bunch if they fell asleep in the car, and like it would get heavy and cumbersome. So, instead, we got a couple of baby carriers, which turned out to be amazing! We could install art exhibitions, go hiking, clean around home, or just cuddle together.We used it steadily with Levee until he was close to 5 and started walking more–but we can still carry him in it if we wanted to!
When Levee was small (Levee was born at just around 5lbs, so he had some growing to do!), the Baby Ktan Original Carrier Black worked great! We also used this for Batty until just recently. It gave head support, kept him close, and is easy to wash and comfortable to wear. It folds up so tiny, so I still keep it in the car, just in case.
When both kids were big enough, we mostly moved to using a Ergo Baby Performance Carrier Charcoal-Black. This carrier is my#1 my favorite baby item! It is an excellent every-day carrier, but also works wonders when hiking! It is more comfortable to wear him in this on my back than to just plain hold him. It distributes his weight perfectly, and he loves riding in it. It has front and back wear options and even side wear! We used front with little babies and use back for big babies (Levee at age 5, 40lbs, can still ride in it), though it does have a side-riding option. Batty is now over 8 lbs. and is just able to ride in it, but they do sell an infant insert for smaller kids.
We frequently walk to the post office, grocery store, library, and work, so we knew we needed a sturdy, all-weather, all-terrain stroller if possible! Blake did a lot of research and settled on the BOB Revolution Flex Stroller Orange, which he says will serve as his “mid life crisis” vehicle, the convertible to beat all convertibles! We’ve taken this hiking, running, on long walks, and on countless errands. It is a bit bulky for an every-day stroller to throw in the car, but since we were trying to be minimalist, we only wanted one. It folds up fairly tidy, so we keep it hanging on a hook on the back of our door. When we don’t have room to pack it on long car trips, we just use our carriers!
I have taken this stroller directly into the grocery store on our walks, loaded it up with groceries, and checked out and walked home! It is a workhorse.
Breastfeeding and Other Milk/Formula Feeding
If you are willing and able, breastfeeding is the perfect minimalist baby technique! Even if it goes well, it is still difficult! So, do reach out to your community for help and support! Thankfully, I was able to stick with the breastfeeding thing and make it work! I went back to work when Levee was 7 weeks old, so I needed a pump to help me keep my supply up and have enough stashed milk for Blake to feed Levee while I was away at work.
With Batty, I had to pump every 3 hours so he would have milk for his feeding tube and then bottles, since he was born over a month early and wasn’t strong enough in the beginning to feed directly from the breast.
Levee had issues with latching at first–if you run into this, I would recommend asking to speak with the lactation consultant at the hospital and requesting a nipple shield or buying one on your own. We used one with Levee for the first few months of his life, then gradually didn’t need it anymore. My nipples are a totally different shape now, and Batty had a strong latch from the beginning, so we didn’t need it with him.
Check with your insurance company if you plan to breastfeed, as many will completely cover the cost of a breast pump. We got the Medela Pump In Style Breast Pump Starter Set – 57081EA, and it has been amazing! I also got handed down a Medela hand-operated breast pump, which I used on long car trips. I would sit in the back with Levee and pump fresh milk to feed to him in a bottle in his car seat. I tried storing milk just in bottles, jars, and regular ziplocks, but with how much milk we stored, it did help to have these Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags, 100 Count, BPA Free and BPS Free. Not a necessary item, by any means. We got to try out the Medela Brand Bags at the hospital, and those were even easier to use, honestly, since they pop up and stand on their own, but what was even better, honestly were these OXO Tot Baby Food Freezer Tray with Protective Cover. I use these to freeze little 1 oz. portions of milk (like little ice cubes.) That made it easy to defrost them in the right amounts. We also used these trays in making our own baby food and freezing it in small quantities. And we still use them today to freeze broth cubes, fresh herbs, etc.
For feeding pumped milk or formula, I highly recommend glass bottles over plastic. They heat up the milk MUCH faster (we just microwave water in a pyrex glass measuring cup and pop the bottle in for a minute or so, and of course test the milk temp on our wrist before feeding). Also, they hold up longer over time and don’t degrade. Yes, most all bottles are BPA free now, but we didn’t know about BPA’s affects were for years, so I don’t like using any plastic I can avoid using. Yes, glass can shatter if you drop it, and you will lose a few bottles that way, but to us, it was worth it.
We don’t have a particular brand we love–but do know that you may need to experiment with different sizes, shapes, and flows of bottle nipples, as your baby may not take to the first one you try. Don’t stock up on a ton of just one kind–get a few different ones to try if you will be using bottles. We often use Evenflo glass bottles and/or Dr. Brown’s. We were also handed down some Lifefactory brand, and the silicone coozies are nice. Get different flow rates and shapes of nipples if you can.
Okay, this is a quite expensive item, but besides the Ergo Baby carrier and a breast pump, this is probably the other most essential baby thing we have loved, the Babybjorn Bouncer Balance Black Cotton. We were lucky to have one handed down to us with wooden toy attachment. It is a safe, extremely portable seat that pops up, has a washable cover, and keeps baby entertained and happy. It bounces easily with your foot, and when the baby moves, they bounce themselves, too.
We passed on our bouncer seat to a friend, then learned we were having another kid shortly thereafter! So I jumped on Facebook Marketplace, and we were able to find a really good deal on a used one after some digging. These hold up really well, so they are great to pass on to others, resell, or whatever after you are done with it.
You will want something to make white noise. We were gifted the Sleep Sheep, which makes a pleasant range of sounds and velcros to the side of your sleeping situation, but we also just use an old radio and set it to a static station. Levee still uses the old radio today as part of his bedtime routine. While you’re at it, a small fan for the bedside also helps with white noise, and fans have been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS.
First Aid Kit
Thermometer and baby nail clippers and a booger sucker! You will need these items. We got ours in a kit like The First Years American Red Cross Baby Healthcare Kit
We also love our Cloth Diapers! and Rockin’ Green Detergent! (Hard Rock, Unscented for us!) Along with that comes things like Thieves oil, Tea Tree oil, and unscented Dr. Bronners for making our wipe solution, but check out our post Cloth Diapering on the Cheap for more info. We go into a lot of detail there.
Yeah, it’s controversial, but we did co-sleep with Levee. With Batty being premature and extra tiny, we didn’t feel it was a safe option at first. So, yeah, Levee slept in bed between us. Make sure you are making the right and safest decision for your family in this regard. If you do co-sleep, especially if you breastfeed in bed, get a mattress cover if you want to protect your mattress. I also put a towel underneath the fitted sheet. Make sure you have a firm mattress and keep all blankets and pillows out of the way. Sleep in a C shape with your leg up so baby’s feet rest on your leg and your arm out so that you won’t rollover. Don’t just take my word on this stuff–do your own research and make an informed decision.
We have an antique wooden cradle with a hard mattress that both kids sometimes sleep on, and my friend handed down a bassinet to us with Batty that attaches to the side of the bed. This seems like a great and much safer alternative to co-sleeping in the same bed. Batty is still too little to be sleeping much at all for a long stretch, so we don’t have a report on this item yet, but we are using it some and getting Batty used to it.
There are a lot of other things we have made use of that we don’t consider quite as essential, but which have played/are playing a part in raising our kids. I’ll list these more briefly below in case you are interested:
- Foam Mats and/or Crochet Rugs: We use those interlocking foam mats and my homemade crochet rugs for baby tummy time and play time. They provide a cushion for both us and the kids to hang out on the floor, and are easy to clean.
- Portable Silverware Kit and Sippy Cups: Restaurants will always want to give you plastic silverware and plastic lidded styrofoam cups for kids–reduce waste by bringing your own baby cups and silverware to the restaurant. Some pyrex containers in a cloth bag for leftovers never hurt, either. We keep all of this in a bag in our car for when visiting restaurants was a normal activity… maybe one day it will be again.
- Tiny Hats and Socks: When you have a newborn, they need to keep warm, so make sure you have some tiny hats around. And throw some socks over their hands so they won’t scratch themselves–their nails grow faster than you can cut them, and they are like tiny knives that will scratch you and themselves all up if you’re not careful.
- Burp Cloths: Whether you do cloth diapering or not, it doesn’t hurt to have around some large prefold cotton diapers to use for burp cloths/rags. Trust me, you’re going to get barfed/peed/pooped on a lot, so having these handy is so great. They are thick, sturdy, and 100% cotton. They will live on in your household long after baby as dish rags, etc.
- Bottle Brush: If you are using bottles, get an appropriately-sized bottle brush to clean them out thoroughly. Most bottle brushes come with a smaller brush side to clean the nipples, too.
- Aden +Anis Linen Swaddle Blankets: Yes, another bougie item, but we use these a ton. They are cotton linen, lightweight, and large. We use them to swaddle babies, cover to block sun, and also as a breastfeeding cover–not because I think breastfeeding is something that needs to be covered up but because sometimes it helps keep the baby from being distracted from the boob at hand. I like this particular brand because of the material, size, weight, and portability.
- Booster Seat or High Chair: We went with a booster seat that attaches to a chair. If you eat dinner at the table, it’s great to include baby in that routine as soon as you possibly can. Dinnertime is a social activity, which is so important for babies, and it also gets them ready and willing to try new foods once they are on solids.
- And, I feel like I’m forgetting things, but this will suffice for now, and I will update this as I remember…