Marianne is a mother from Scotland who is passionate about providing accurate information about breastfeeding and parenting.
Congratulations, you are pregnant! Expect to be bombarded with invitations to sign up to this and that mailing list so that you can be sold lots of stuff.
As you want the best for your baby, its easy to feel pressure to buy a lot of baby stuff. However, trust me that you don't actually need a lot of the stuff. I have compiled a list of 21 things that newborn babies do not need. Of course, you might find some of this stuff useful or want it because it is fun. Remember, every baby and their family's needs are different. I hope this article helps you think about what you want!
1. A Nursery
It's weird how many adverts there are about decorating the nursery for your baby when a baby does not need their own room! Guidelines recommend that babies sleep in the same room as their parents until at least 6 months of age.
I am not saying not to furnish and decorate your baby's nursery if you enjoy doing it, just that it is really for your own satisfaction (and maybe Pinterest's or Instagram's if you are a social media fan). Your baby won't care about her nursery and is likely to want to be wherever you are for at least the first few months.
2. Nursery Furniture
There are lots of offers on special sets of nursery furniture for a baby, but you don't need these. You will want to buy somewhere for the baby to sleep and nap in (although, realistically, you might find your baby ends up mostly sleeping in your bed or on you!). You will also need somewhere to store the baby's stuff, but you can use any chest of drawers or wardrobe; you don't need a "nursery" one.
Our largest pre-baby purpose was a large wardrobe for our own stuff to free up space in our existing chest of drawers for baby's stuff. I also bought extra storage boxes and compartments for the existing chest of drawers which were helpful to sort baby's stuff out.
3. A Changing Table
Personally, I don't see the point in buying a changing table. We bought a simple changing mat from Ikea which we could move around the flat when we changed our baby—far more flexible as we did not have to change him in a particular place. This also meant I could do a nappy change in the middle of the night without leaving the bed, minimising the amount I needed to move and wake up when doing a nappy change. Just make sure the nappy mat, nappies and wipes are within easy reach of the bed before going to sleep.
4. A Changing Mat
If you want to be really minimalist, you can manage without a changing mat. Now that our baby is older, we tend to just put a towel under him. Sometimes, we have just changed him on the bed when the nappy is just pee and not poo. This is a high risk strategy that has occasionally led to us and the bed getting peed on, so I recommend at least a towel, as well as a waterproof protector for the bed.
5. New Clothes
Spending lots of money on new clothes for a baby is pointless. My baby grew out of his newborn-sized clothes in exactly a week. The bigger "up to 10lbs" size lasted for a few more weeks, but some of the clothes I had in this size only got worn once, and others never. Even worse, a friend had a baby so big he never fitted in any of his lovingly purchased newborn clothes!
I recommend getting secondhand clothes. If you have any friends or family with babies, they may be happy to pass on their baby clothes. We got nearly all our baby clothes from friends. If you don't have any suitable friends, try charity shops, secondhand sales, or looking for bundles of clothes on eBay, the Facebook marketplace or similar. You can find excellent quality stuff that has hardly been worn.
6. Fiddly Baby Clothes
My baby's grandmother bought us a beautiful newborn-sized dungaree set which I dutifully packed in my hospital bag. However, our baby never wore it. In the first week of his life (this was how long it fitted), we were far too tired and exhausted to figure out how to dress him in it. He wore only vests and sleepsuits for the first month of his life.
I especially recommend wrapover bodysuits (don't need to pull over baby's head) and sleepsuits with poppers down the middle. Now that he is older, he does sometimes wear dungarees and more complicated clothes, but I still choose stuff that is easy to put on and off. (Well-designed baby dungarees aren't too bad now that I have had a bit more sleep and practice handling a baby!)
7. Shoes for the Baby
Before we had our baby, a friend of ours passed on some very cute baby shoes she had bought for her son. Her baby had never worn these, and neither has ours. Babies can't walk, so there is not much point in them having shoes. Baby shoes are a cute ornament, but not much else.
For at least the first 2–3 months of his life, your baby will not care less about toys. He will be interested in people but is unlikely to show any interest in objects. Our baby followed the sound of our improvised rattle made from a vitamin jar.
Once your baby is a bit older, toys will start to be of interest to him, but even then you don't need to buy a lot of them. I have bought my baby some toys, but he seems like he will enjoy playing with a muslin cloth or a water bottle as much as any purposely bought toy.
Some educational experts suggest less is more and making your baby a "treasure box" out of household items like wooden spoons and sponges. They also say spending time interacting with your baby is more valuable than buying them any all-singing, all-dancing "educational" baby toy.
9. A White Noise Machine
A lot of parents use white noise machines to try to help babies to sleep. In fact, as well as white noise, there is also "brown noise" and "pink noise", and there are many products on the market specially designed to help babies sleep.
We tried white noise (and brown noise and pink noise), and it made no difference to our baby. (What did work well at helping him nap at a few weeks old was going to a noisy coffee shop, although that wasn't any use in helping me nap.)
However, a lot of my mum friends say that white noise works well for them, so it might be worth trying. You can download free apps to your phone, before splashing out on a machine.
10. Bottles, Breast Pumps, Etc.
If you are breastfeeding, you don't need to buy bottles or breast pumps or loads of breastfeeding equipment. I wrote a separate article about what you don't need and do need for breastfeeding here.
11. A Baby Wipe Warmer
I was genuinely shocked it is possible to buy a machine in which you place your baby wipes to warm them up before wiping your baby's bottom. If you are worried about your baby's bottom being cold, you have options like warming up the wipes in your hand or using warm water on cotton wool or a reusable wipe.
I recommend buying reusable wipes as—as well as being more environmentally friendly than baby wipes—they also wipe bottoms much better.
12. A Routine
Many parents I have met have felt under a lot of pressure to get into a routine with a baby. It is pointless to worry about this for a few weeks if your baby is normally. I fed my baby according to his cues. He slept when he wanted to sleep. Gradually after a few weeks me and him settled into more of a pattern.
13. A Pram
I know some mums who just transport their baby around in a sling, prams are not essentials!
Personally I love my pram and my baby loved it for a while too. The motion helped him have a nice long nap until he got to about 3 months old. However I know of some babies that always hated prams and would only settle in a sling next to the nice warm body of their parent.
14. A Bath Thermometer
It is very important you don't bath your baby in water that is too hot. However test the water temperature the old fashioned way by feeling it. Using your elbow is a good way.
When we gave my baby his first bath we carefully made up the water using a bath thermometer so it was exactly the recommended 37 degrees. When I felt the water, I thought to myself that it was too hot for him, however as the bath thermometer said it was the right temperature we trusted it. However my instinct was right and he did find it too hot- we made the next bath cooler and he enjoyed it much more. Now when I make my baby a bath I make sure that the bath is warm, but a bit cooler than I would choose for myself (I like a hot bath). This works well.
15. A Baby Bath
You don't need a special baby bath for your baby. You can wash your baby in the kitchen sink, a small basin or take him into the adult big bath. As our kitchen sink wasn't suitable, we bought a simple baby bath and used it a lot before he outgrew it, but he likes (carefully supported) swimming in the adult bath the best as he is free to kick and splash!
16. Vibrating, Singing, Dancing Baby Bouncers/Swings
There are loads of vibrating chair-like bouncers and swinging toys on the market. Some babies love them, and parents like them when they occupy the baby so they can do their stuff.
Ours hated the vibrating one we had that swung and played music and preferred the plain old simple bouncer chair with no special features. He also occupies himself well in the activity gym, or watching a mobile go round and round above his head (sometimes, anyway).
17. A Dummy
Dummies or pacifiers seem to divide opinions. Some mums I know hate the idea of using one. Others desperately try to persuade their baby to take a dummy. I also know some parents who have thought very pressurised by their family to use a dummy. My advice to you is that if you want to use a dummy that is your choice (and your babies to some extent), but if you don't like the idea don't feel under pressure to try one. It is not obligatory and your baby will not miss out without one (and your dentist will probably be happier).
18. Baby Pods or Nests
There are a lot of baby pods or nests on the market. No doubt they are comfy, but for example at £130 for a Sleepyhead, your money could probably be better spent. If you are thinking of getting a baby pod or nest because you want to co-sleep, it is worth being aware that the Lullaby Trust recommend against baby nests and pods as it is best for the baby to sleep on a firm hard surface without any heavy bedding.
19. A Baby Monitor
Baby monitors are not necessary, especially for a newborn. As I only live in a small apartment where I will hear the baby from all rooms I am not going to buy a monitor. It is recommended that for at least the first 6 months your baby sleeps and naps in the same room as you so he is nearly always in the same room as me.
20. A Bulk Purchase of Nappies
It is a good idea to have a few nappies before your baby is born, but don't bulk buy hundreds of nappies in different sizes because you may find your baby doesn't suit a particular brand, or grows out of them faster than you expect. I ended up with a whole load of size 2 nappies supposedly for babies 4kg to 8kg that didn't fit my boy (who was still 6kg) due to his long torso and chunky legs. I also found certain brands fit him a lot better than others.
21. A Smart Nappy With an App
A well known nappy brand (not advertising them here, but the most famous one) has developed a smart nappy. Apparently you attach a sensor to special disposable nappies and then an App tells you when the baby has pooed or peed.
This is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have heard. You tell your baby has peed by feeling the nappy (and in many brands of disposable nappies in smaller sizes by a line that changes blue). You usually tell your baby has pooed by the smell (and if your baby is like mine sometimes the sound) Even if you aren't sure you should change your baby every few hours anyway and he will let you know if he is uncomfortable. You do not need any App.
I've also recently started using cloth nappies. Given the environmental issues with disposables, cloth nappies are the future, not "smart" ones.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Liz Westwood from UK on August 29, 2019:
I had not heard of a baby wipe warmer before. You have come up with great advice based on honest experience. Like most parents there were the odd items that did not get used as much as we expected. The baby bath was a hassle to fill. We used it just a few times.