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Tips From a Mom on Necessary and Unnecessary Items for Your Baby

Updated on October 26, 2017
Kierstin Gunsberg profile image

Kierstin is a mom to two little girls, not a fan of Popples, and is really, really good at removing crayon from practically any surface.

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I had two little girls, one right after the other. The first time I had a baby, it seemed like each morning of my last trimester was welcomed by another package at the door from a far-off friend or relative sending well wishes in the form of baby goods that had either been purchased off of my shower registry or picked with care by the sender. My great-aunt, who I hadn't seen in over a decade, sent the portable changing station; my cousin, once removed, bought up all of the toys off my registry; friends from youth group sent along onesies; my brother bought me an Ergo; my husband's family bought the fancy pack-n-play and my mother took me to the high-end resale baby boutiques every.single.weekend.

After months of tossing my cookies every ten minutes or so, it was so exciting to finally be sporting a real, obvious baby bump that garnered celebration from every stranger I encountered and all I could think about were all of the things that bump was going to need once she was on the outside.

Then my second baby came soon after, and save for a few random congrats, everyone was over me, my vomiting and my ability to conceive at a pace that puts rabbits to shame (is that real, what they say about rabbits, anyway?) While I still had all of the stuff from my first baby tucked into corner closets and folded under the bed, I found myself pulling out just a fraction of it the second time around. I'd had fun unwrapping, unpackaging and displaying the cute evidence of my newfound motherhood, but with little energy I found myself pulling out only the most necessary items and leaving the others to a dark and lonely fate (just kidding, I gave that stuff away to friends).

What I'd learned is that there are some things that babies really, really need. And there are a lot of things they don't. And then there are things that are just plain useless unless you need it as a prop for your Instagram story. A lot of that stuff is obvious (like, okay, come on, is your baby really going to teeth on that vintage tin car toy? Because if he is please research lead poisoning) but some of it is less obvious, like should you really invest in a diaper bag and wipe warmer? In the end, that's all up to you (even the tin car toy decorated with lead-based-paint) and I'm definitely not here to judge. But before you start registering for every item in Target's baby aisles ask yourself these questions.

But Seriously, Do You Really Need a Changing Table?

Plain and simple, no. You do not really need a changing table. But that definitely didn't stop me from registering for a beautiful white one that my sister-in-law's sweet mother purchased for me. I used it for the first couple of months, this is true. For eight blissful weeks my daughter stared up at the ceiling (just kidding, she screamed) while I changed her diaper on that solid piece of furniture, the only thing in my home that felt sturdy and trustworthy after eight weeks of sleep deprivation. I lined up the pretty bottles of powder and lotion, stacked the diapers and set her outfits on it's shelves. It was nice. Until she learned to roll over, ahead of schedule. That made the changing table a lot harder to maneuver, and, after a while, completely obsolete. While I'd once winced at experienced moms who casually admitted to changing their baby's crap filled diapers on their very own bed, I too was now partaking in this blasphemy.

Portable Changing Station

Skip Hop Baby Pronto Portable Changing Station with Cushioned Changing Mat and Wipes Case, 3 Pockets, Chevron
Skip Hop Baby Pronto Portable Changing Station with Cushioned Changing Mat and Wipes Case, 3 Pockets, Chevron

So, you have to weigh it out. Is the changing table worth the space and money to look nice in your nursery, even if you may not use it long term? Whatever the right answer for you is I found that the portable changing pad my great-aunt had sent me ended up as my go-to for diaper changes whether I was on the go or in for the night.

Here's the actual changing pad (or, portable changing station) that I used for my kids, but they come in all kinds of patterns and colors. I loved this thing because the pockets and mesh had enough space to store a handful of diapers, wipes, creams and even a couple of pacifiers so a lot of the time, going in some place, I'd leave the bulk diaper bag in the car and bring just this with me. It rolls right out into a big, cushioned changing mat that can be wiped down with a disinfecting cloth and snapped back onto your diaper bag when you're done.

 

Final Verdict: No, you don't really need a changing table unless you just like the way it looks in the nursery.

Do You Really Need a Diaper Bag, Then?

In my experience, yes, you need a diaper bag or at least a designated bag that you keep packed and at the ready. I guess technically it doesn't have to be an actual diaper bag. There are tons of cute and versatile mini-luggage bags out there that will suffice but the important thing to make sure of is that you have lots of little pockets, zippers and a place to store your own things (like wallet, glasses case, etc). I used my trusty ol' Skip Hop diaper bag with both babies until last year when my kids' clothes and carry-along needs began to expand beyond burp rags and swaddles.

Mine was a dark gray and my husband and I both carried it while my brother has always used a tactical backpack to store his own gear alongside wipes, diaps and pacifiers. A quick search of Amazon brings up a more stylish slew of backpacks and messenger bags by names like Herschel and currently, to get my two toddlers through a day away from home, I'm sporting the super roomy Gray Arrows Weekender Tote Bag by White Elm (also on Amazon). All of this is to say - find a bag or two that work for you. If you're debating on putting one of your registry definitely do it. You'll be glad to have it.

Final Verdict: Yes, you need a diaper bag, or any bag that functions as a diaper bag.

What About The Bottle and Wipe Warmers?

Personally, I've never owned or used a bottle warmer or a wipe warmer. My kids, for whatever reason, would never take a bottle, which we learned the hard way during a botched hearing test in which the nurse tried to give our oldest a bottle and the contents ended up regurgitated all over my husband's chest. From what I understand about bottle warming, you can warm a bottle in a pot of hot water, however just for convenience sake, I think that having a bottle warmer would be nice, especially in the middle of the night. That being said, how hot does formula really need to be? Can't you just use warm water to mix it? And my understanding of breastmilk is that is shouldn't be heated up too much at all.

As for the wipe warmer, a nice idea and totally unrealistic. What are you going to do - tote the wipe warmer with you to each room you end up changing your baby in? Nah. Save the money and the space and store your packages of wipes at room temperature, then warm the wipe in your hand for a moment before cleaning baby up.

Final Verdict: You don't need the wipe warmer at all, but the convenience of a bottle warmer might be worth it if you do plan to heat your bottles.

Your diaper bag doesn't have to be an actual diaper bag. Any bag you love that can be versatile and hold a whole lotta stuff will work to contain the chaos.
Your diaper bag doesn't have to be an actual diaper bag. Any bag you love that can be versatile and hold a whole lotta stuff will work to contain the chaos. | Source

How Many Baby Outfits Do You Really Need?

A million, obviously.

But seriously, I think the answer depends on a few factors like how often you leave the house, what season your baby is born in and if your baby has reflux which you can't even predict.

What I learned between my two babies is that for the first couple of months you don't need a lot in the way of clothing. That's because with how often you change that little diaper, burp that precious babe and wipe up spit up and blowouts, you end up just wrapping your freshly diapered baby in a swaddle blankie and snuggling up until the stage of bodily fluids everywhere has subsided.

However, for doctor's appointments, daycare and bedtime you'll at least need the following for the first six months:

  • 4-6 long sleeved footie jammies. These are perfect for bedtime and leaving the house because it's one easy layer. For my summer baby I stocked up on cotton jammies and for my winter baby I did the fleece versions.
  • A dozen short sleeved white bodysuits. There's just something so cute about a baby in a white bodysuit but you can really do whatever colors you want. I made sure with both kids I had at least a few for them to wear around the house. If they got chilly I wrapped them up in a swaddle and if they were too warm it was easy to lose the swaddle layer.
  • 3 caps. I loved the Kate Quinn Organics knotted caps. They were cozy, soft and breathable.
  • 1 package of white socks. White because they're easy to match. One package because you won't use them much, but grandmas really care about baby feet being covered. So, have some socks handy.
  • 2 pairs of soft pants. You know, for when you want to get fancy.
  • 1 thin sweater or cardigan. It's a good idea to have something a little warmer to throw over your babe when you're heading out, but even in the dead of winter you won't be able to put anything too thick on your baby and still buckle him or her in safely. Bulky jackets and thick sweaters a huge no-no when it comes to car seat safety.

I guess that now is a good time to mention that newborns do not need shoes.

I repeat, if your baby can't walk, your baby has no need for shoes.

Just sayin'

Final Verdict: You need less outfits than people will gift you at your baby shower but just go with it.

Should You Register for Baby Toys?

I won't even elaborate on this. YES YOU SHOULD REGISTER FOR BABY TOYS. They're the funnest! And despite what a lot of moms told me before I gave birth, babies really do play with toys. If you don't know where to start here are my favorite toys to get babies through their first year:

  • A portable sound machine. We loved the mini Cloud B Sleep Sheep. Even if our daughters hardly noticed her, her soothing sounds were very welcome on rides home from the pediatrician.
  • Car seat toys. It's nice to have a couple of toys that baby can gaze and grab at in the car and when they're lounging in their seat in restaurants, doctors offices (I really don't think it's possible to comprehend how often you're at the doctor in those first few months before you have a baby, but it's a lot), and the store.
  • Board books. Start 'em young! We always read to our girls even as newborns. It made for good bonding time and when they were big enough to crawl from room to room we knew we'd scored a parenting win when we'd find them surrounded by a pile of books, babbling to themselves. It's a good idea to pick out some of those big board books too which you can prop up on the floor during tummy time to give your baby something to look at while she flexes her newfound muscles.
  • Musical toys. Music is such an important part of baby development and a great way for you to bond as you play and tinker with the sounds together. For an electronic experience, the Fisher-Price Music Makers Gift Set is an adorable option or, if you prefer to go a more classic route, the Hohner 4 Piece Baby Band is the way to go with it's bright and colorful beads. We have the Hohner Toddler Band set and it's extremely sturdy, while we've also had some of the pieces that come with the Fisher-Price Music Makers Gift Set and they held up great as well!

Final Verdict: Yes, you should register for baby toys unless you don't believe in fun.

Feel like you have baby clothes coming out of every nook in your house? Keep the tags on them and whatever doesn't get used you can consign or sell on Ebay.
Feel like you have baby clothes coming out of every nook in your house? Keep the tags on them and whatever doesn't get used you can consign or sell on Ebay. | Source

Do All Babies Like to Be Swaddled?

It depends on the baby. My oldest hated it, my youngest really took comfort in it. For our oldest we had the Aden + Anais muslin swaddles but instead of swaddling her she just liked to use them as a blanket while we rocked her.

For our youngest the Halo and SwaddleMe brands offered comfy, easy to wash swaddles that helped us to create the most delicious baby burrito without having to become folding masters. These are different from swaddle blankets because all you have to do is pop your cutie in like you would any other sleep sack, then use the velcro wings to wrap your baby up into a swaddle as tight or loose as he likes.

Final Verdict: No. And that sucks because the ones who do seem to sleep wayyyyy better.

Should I Get a Stroller Travel System?

So here's my deal with these - I had one and I didn't use it. I used the car seat and I used the stroller but I never used them together. I'm going to guess this was probably because during the time where it would have been appropriate to stroll my baby in the car seat/stroller combo I was too freaking exhausted. By the time I was finally getting some sleep and gaining energy my baby was big enough to fit comfortably in the stroller without the car seat.

If you're really active though and not such a sissy like me then I think the car seat/stroller combo would be worth it. Also, if your baby is born in the wintertime, like my first was, and you live in a practically arctic climate, like I do, then you may not be using the stroller much to begin with anyway.

Final Verdict: Yes, if you're planning to be active in the first few months. Otherwise, skip the combo and wait to purchase a stroller that will fit your older baby/toddler needs.

If you're debating on whether or not to put up the cash for those maternity photos - go for it! If you don't have room in your budget ask a friend or even your partner to snap a few pictures.
If you're debating on whether or not to put up the cash for those maternity photos - go for it! If you don't have room in your budget ask a friend or even your partner to snap a few pictures. | Source

Are Maternity Photos Necessary?

If we're talking life or death then I guess no, they're not necessary. But I really wish I'd done them and it's one of my few life regrets which is saying a lot because I've also stabbed part of my eye out and dyed my hair orange. I don't have a good excuse for not doing them other than I was being shy about my body. Looking back, I wish I had more photos of me pregnant to show my girls. Don't be like me. If you're waffling on whether or not to take maternity photos, go for it.

Final Verdict: Yeah, they are necessary if you don't want to experience a lifetime of regret and emotional anguish.

How Many Diapers Should You Really Buy?

Start with just a box in each size from Newborn through size 2. My reasoning for this is that with my own kids, I noticed they were only in the newborn size for a couple of weeks before they transitioned to size 1 which they were in for only a couple of months and some babies never even fit into newborn. With Amazon Prime, WalMart and like every other store offering 2-day delivery on diapers, save money and space by just buying as you need.

I've personally found the best deal on our preferred brand and the most convenience with an Amazon diaper subscription.

Final Verdict: Buy just enough diapers to get you through 2-3 weeks at a time, that way if your baby grows out of a size before you've finished your stockpile you don't have to hassle with returns.

What Do You Wish You'd Known Before You Had Your Baby?

What things did you find to be most useful and what stuff did you find to be totally useless? Let me know in the comments below!

© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg

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    • Kierstin Gunsberg profile image
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      Kierstin Gunsberg 3 weeks ago from Traverse City, Michigan

      Ah, good luck, Angel! We are working with our youngest right now but so far she's not very into it...

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 3 weeks ago from Joliet, Illinois

      Good all around article breaking you into parenthood! We will start potty training our daughter soon.