Saturday, March 19, 2016

All the stuff you (actually) need for a baby

Since the Cake household is officially in nesting mode again, I've been thinking a little about whether we need anything extra for #2. We tend a bit towards the minimalist end of the scale (we prefer food to stuff!) and when our Little Monkey was born we were living in a pretty small house (which we liked - just not quite as much as we like big, daft projects).

We're also on the frugal side - not extremely, but we do like to weigh up whether we really need things before forking out our hard-earned cash for them. This means I spend lots of time finding out what other people think about things before buying, as well as hunting down bargains and quality secondhand stuff.

Given this, I spent my last pregnancy picking people's brains for what was actually needed, and then further refined my thoughts after the Little Monkey arrived. Since I did all that legwork I figured I might as well share it here, in case you're in a similar boat and want to know just how much stuff a small person needs.

The list looks fairly insane, but it covers absolutely everything that's needed to start with (and then some - you could get by with less). Many of these things can be borrowed or picked up very cheaply secondhand, and your needs and preferences will differ, but hopefully this is a helpful starting point.

Some of the links below (the ones marked with *) are affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy something I get a small kickback - but I really do recommend these products and vendors. If I wouldn't buy it myself, it's not on the list. 

The List

Sleeping stuff

  • Basket or bassinet
    • Moses baskets, bassinets, cradles and stroller bassinets (our chosen option) all work here, so long as it's safe and snug. You won't use it for that long (probably max 3 months) and the bigger it is the harder it is to store. 
    • Secondhand is a great option here.
  • Cot and mattress
    • Secondhand cots are cheap and readily available (ours was $50 on TradeMe). 
    • New mattresses are recommended for safety. We went for this basic mattress - check if buying separately that the mattress and cot are the same size. 
  • Linen
    • Mattress protectors - two is ideal - purpose-bought* ones are great; a partially felted blanket will also do the trick; even a towel can help in a pinch. We used the cot ones tucked firmly around our bassinet mattress in the early days so only bought cot size.
    • Sheets
      • Two fitted or flat bottom sheets for the bassinet - we found a pillowcase fitted perfectly over our bassinet mattress so just used those. 
      • Two fitted bottom sheets* for the cot. 
      • Two top sheets - we found large muslins worked well, and as they doubled as swaddles we just had one stash of them - I think we had six in total. Note that for safety reasons loose sheets and blankets are sometimes recommended against - we chose to tuck them firmly in very low down in the bed so our winter baby stayed cosy without being triple-swaddled - so especially if you have a warmer house you might not need these. 
    • Swaddles - you don't have to swaddle at all but very little babies do seem to like being bundled up, and certainly for us it improved sleep so we embraced it! 
      • You'll want at least 3 as the swaddle is the most likely piece of bedding to cop leaks. 
      • Muslin swaddles want to be around 120cm x 120cm, otherwise there won't be enough fabric to wrap the baby up firmly. The ones we bought are no longer available but Aden and Anais swaddles* are lovely and come in lots of different prints and patterns. 
      • If you have a Houdini baby (our Little Monkey was) or just don't want to bother working out how to make a baby burrito, zip-up swaddles are an easy option. We switched to these Mokopuna ones at about a month old when it became clear he could wangle his way out of the muslins and wake himself up. 
    • Blankets 
      • Four or five of varying weights should be enough. Larger blankets can be folded in half for extra warmth for little babies, so once again we skipped bassinet sizes in favour of cot and stroller sizes. Thinner merino blankets can make great swaddles for cooler weather. 
      • We have (and this has been plenty): 
        • A large double layer merino blanket 
        • A thin merino blanket (similar to this)
        • A lightweight cotton stroller blanket
        • A cotton quilt
      • Merino is my favourite for its warmth and breathability; cotton is also good; polar fleece is not breathable and not great for babies as they can't regulate their temperature very well. 
      • Blankets are simple to make, so if you can sew a straight line you can save a few dollars by buying offcuts from NZ Merino and Fabrics and hemming your own. 
  • Sleeping bag
    • It's generally advised to move babies out of swaddles (often into a sleeping bag) from around three months as it's not safe for them to be swaddled once they can roll. 
    • We like the Mokopuna Cocoono but there are lots of great options out there. Since you won't need this straight away hang out for a really good deal if you can. We have two. 

Changing Stuff

  • Nappies
    • Newborns can go through 8-12 per day so a decent stash of disposables and/or 20-24 cloth nappies (our cloth nappies were too bulky for the first month so we started with disposables – and we like having some disposables as backups anyway). 
    • Some babies grow out of the newborn size of disposable size very quickly, so don't stock up too much.
  • Wipes 
    • If you're using cloth wipes, 24 seems like a good number, or a couple of big packs of disposable ones to start with. Having a few mini packs for out and about is helpful, too.
  • Barrier cream 
    • We use Sudocrem from the supermarket but there are many options. Useful to have some on hand in case you need it but it's not always necessary. 
    • If you're using barrier cream with cloth nappies use a liner as it can hamper absorbency. 
  • Nappy disposal 
    • A bin to suit your baby's room or bathroom - don't feel you have to buy a custom nappy bin - something that is easy to operate with one hand (or even a foot - though keep in mind that slightly bigger babies will work this out pretty quickly) will do the trick. Ours is a rubbish bin from Briscoes. 
    • Either a wet bag liner* for cloth nappies (optional but makes life so much easier) or bin liners for disposables.
  • Change table or mat
    • If you want a change table, all good - but a mat on top of an existing piece of furniture or on the floor can work too. We use the floor. 
    • Some kind of waterproof mat to protect the surface underneath. This could be a purpose-made change mat or anything really - ours was waterproof tablecloth bought off the roll from Storage Box. If it wipes clean you'll only need one of these. 
    • Something comfy for on top of the waterproof layer. Not essential but a bit nicer for the wee one. An old-fashioned flat cloth nappy or muslin can serve this purpose - you'll probably want at least three or four. Some change mats have a cloth layer and a waterproof layer combined, so you'll have to wash the whole thing if it gets soiled but it's more streamlined. 
  • Nappy bag 
    • Anything that you are happy carrying around and that is big enough to carry what you need will do - no need to buy a specific bag for the purpose. 
    • We mostly use a wet bag with a side pocket,* and carry: two cloth nappies, a mini packet of wipes, a muslin (can be used as a change mat or burp cloth), an emergency outfit, and a cardigan. If we're going out for a longer time we put that into a backpack or larger bag and add any extras we think we'll need. 


The fun part! We got everything in size 000 (0-3 months) which was fine for our 3.7kg infant - the newborn stuff he was given lasted a week or two at the most, though a smaller baby would get a bit more mileage. A mix of sizes is probably wise, but so long as you have a couple of things that fit you'll be able to get by for a few days if you have an unexpectedly small/large bubs. 
  • Singlets 
    • Merino is awesome here; soft enough to go next to the skin, great for temperature regulation and wool doesn’t need to be washed as often as other fibres. Cotton is also nice for next-to-skin. 
    • You can opt for sleeveless bodysuits (with snaps between the legs), but we preferred to avoid those for the base layer, as if a nappy leaks a bodysuit generally will need to be changed, whereas a singlet often won't. 
    • Three was enough for us - we love the Mokopuna ones, which are expensive but their 0-3 month size lasted us from newborn until around six months - pretty impressive considering how much growing babies do in the first six months. 
  • Outfits
    • Most practical (in my opinion) are either bodysuits + leggings or sleepsuits. 
    • I prefer sleepsuits (the one piece deal with legs included) for very little babies, since they basically only sleep, and bodysuits with leggings when they’re a bit bigger. I recommend Marks and Spencer for these - great value and quality cotton.
    • Five or six outfits should be loads to start with - then you can build up as you need to, once you know what you like. 
  • Socks
    • Three or four pairs will be enough to begin with. 
    • Lamington socks are awesome (expensive but they stay on). 
    • Socks and booties are very popular gifts so don’t go overboard in case you end up in a sea of baby footwear! 
  • Warm layers 
    • Two cosy cardigans or jumpers - but often they'll be bundled in a blanket when you’re out anyway, so if you're knitting for your wee one it makes more sense to focus on 3 month+ sizes. 
  • Hats 
    • At least one wool and one cotton, though a couple of each is useful so you can stash them in convenient spots. 
  • Bibs
    • You probably won't need these from day one, but for us the drool arrived overnight so it doesn't hurt to be prepared (definitely don't bother trying to get them onto your floppy newborn until they are drooling on everything though!). 
    • We like these dribble bibs from Marks and Spencer - cheap and colourful. 
    • 5-6 is a good number to begin with. 
  • Nightwear
    • Completely optional but we preferred gowns for night time because they made nappy changes easier. Because newborns sleep all the time you could use nighties during the day too if you prefer - or not at all. 
    • We have four of these Marks and Spencer bundlers – three would be fine but they come in packs of two!

Miscellaneous Stuff

  • Burp cloths 
    • Muslins or old-style cloth nappies work well – I reckon at least 10 are required (useful for lots of things). 
  • Feeding kit 
    • If exclusively breastfeeding you don't need anything (except the mum stuff below), 
    • If bottle feeding or expressing there's heaps of kit that you can add, but mostly it's easy to get piecemeal as you need it. 
  • Bath stuff
    • You don't need anything specific but a plastic tub can be nice for early baths if you don't have a nicely sized sink. We used a plastic box (normally used as a washing basket) for the first few weeks, and then shifted to showers and baths with one of us. 
    • Baby towels are nicely sized, usually a bit softer, and cute but not essential. We didn't buy any but received several as gifts. 
    • Baby nail clippers - some people bite their baby's nails but I couldn't get that to work. You can get clippers from the supermarket. If you work out how to get your baby to sit still while you're clipping let me know!
    • Baby bath products aren't really needed for a while, and we were given a couple of samples that lasted us ages so didn't bother buying any for months. I'd call this an optional extra, at least to start with.  
  • Stroller / pram 
    • Work out what you’ll mainly use it for and buy accordingly. Grunty three-wheeled ones are awesome for long walks, trail walks and runs but bulky; umbrella strollers are better on the bus, around town and if you need to fold them down often. 
    • If you choose a brand known for its longevity, secondhand is an excellent option; they can be very costly new but will easily serve multiple kids. Our (barely) secondhand Mountain Buggy Terrain was about half retail price, came with all the accessories and was in pristine condition.
  • Front pack / carrier / sling 
    • Not essential but a nice way to travel for both the parent and the baby - I prefer it to the stroller for short trips. 
    • I love my classic ErgoBaby* (easy to use, comfy and the pocket means sometimes you can forego the nappy bag), but they all have different qualities and if you can try before you buy that'll be your surest bet. 
    • Some carriers (including the Ergo) need a special insert for newborns, so check the weight guide to ensure you have the right setup if you want to use it straight away.
  • Car seat 
    • You can hire or buy a capsule, or buy a convertible seat and use it from the start. Capsules snap out of the car and lots of folk like that feature but we skipped it and I never found it a nuisance (we don't do that much driving, though).
    • Extended rear-facing (to at least age 2) is now recommended if you can as it's safer for young spines, so if you're looking for a convertible seat check out the rear-facing weight and height limits. 
    • The space in your car is key - not all seats fit all vehicles so make sure you check you have room before buying. 
    • Diono Ranier is my top pick for convertible seats - pricey, but should last through to at least school age. We also have an Evenflo Symphony, which is great but the rear-facing limits are a bit low - our slightly-smaller-than-average 20 month old has outgrown the height limit.

Mum Stuff

Mostly for breastfeeding, along with a couple of other personal bits and bobs. 
  • Nursing bras 
    • Three is a good number but you don't need them all straight away, so depending on your pregnancy weight gain and bra size it may be wait until after your milk comes in to buy these. Trust me when I say you can make one work for a few weeks if it makes sense to wait. 
    • My all-time favourite is this Anita underwire one,* which I highly recommend if you're a larger cup size. Actually supportive, unlike every other nursing bra I've tried on (and I've tried a lot). 
  • Breast pads
    • Supply and letdown vary heaps so don't get too many to start with as some women don't need them for long. 
    • Reusable ones* can be more comfortable but tend to be less absorbent - I found they were great after the first few weeks when supply had settled down. 8-10 pairs will likely be enough if you go this route. 
    • Disposable ones are readily available from the supermarket but over time can get pretty expensive. A box or two to start with is probably wise. 
  • Nursing nightwear 
    • This doesn't have to be specifically purchased, but you’ll want something that will hold breast pads in place overnight and that has easy feeding access. 
    • I really like Hotmilk’s singlets and nighties – comfortable and supportive, and they have some options specifically for larger cup sizes. 
  • Nursing tops 
    • Again, you don’t have to buy these but planning ahead will mean you don’t have to undress to feed. 
    • A singlet that hooks onto your bra under your regular top means you can lift your top without baring your tummy – easy to make your own from an old singlet if you're that way inclined or readily available from most places that sell breastfeeding clothes.
  • Lanolin
    • Highly recommended for healing nipples while you adjust to feeding. It comes in tiny tubes (but a little goes a long way) and is available from the supermarket.
  • Maternity pads
    • Needs vary wildly here, but definitely have a couple of packs on hand to start with. 
    • Disposables vary from cheap and bulky (you may get sent home from hospital with some of these) to the fancy branded ones which can be quite pricey. Personal preference will be pretty key here so probably wise not to buy too many until you know what suits you.  
    • Cloth is also an option - I haven't tried them but these ones are very cheap so over the several weeks they're needed for you could save a fair bit. 

* Denotes affiliate link - if you click through and buy the product I get a small commission.  


  1. I really like your list. We've had 2 children and have also been quite minimal in our purchases. I had 2 prem babies and I fully endorse merino wraps for any child but especially prem children. We also preferred singlets to body suits and found a local company (CoochyCoo merino)who makes from prem right through to school age children. And you can never imagine how useful old cloth nappies can be - they are a life saver. In regards to a buggy I've ended up with two - a Phil and Ted Navigator and Mountain buggy nano - both for completely different jobs. The big buggy kills my back to be putting it in and out of the car all the time so the smaller and lighter nano is great for these car trips. For a winter baby I also liked a baby seat/bouncer so they could come with me while I showered but were off the ground and out of any drafts.

    1. Thanks Aynsley!

      I'm trying to remember showering when my son was small and think I must have always waited until he was napping - I might not have that luxury this time around I guess!


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