Baby Products You Actually Need (& What You Can Live Without)

Baby products that you need, and the ones that you don't

I remember being pregnant with my first baby and going to the store to register for baby products. I was like a kid in a candy store, convinced that I needed every cute outfit, innovative gadget, and award-winning baby products. I registered for dozens of items, and in hindsight, I’m so glad that I never got most of them!

I sometimes wish I could go back to my first-time-mom self in that store with the knowledge of a mom of six, and give myself a cheat sheet of items I would actually need and use. Since I can’t, I’m sharing that list here, as I wish someone had given me this list all those years ago.

What to Buy for Baby (& Baby Products to Skip)

Be warned before you go into any baby store in a highly pregnant state … there are hundreds of baby items and your nesting emotions will try to convince you that you need to buy them all. Don’t get sucked in!

Yes, every baby item is cute (just like every baby!) and there are so many cool things that didn’t exist when we were kids. Seriously though, you’ll end up using many of them just once or twice (or not at all) before baby outgrows them.

Every mom’s favorite baby products will vary (even depends on the baby sometimes), but here’s what I learned along the way: you need less than you think! After baby comes, all of that extra stuff just becomes what you trip over while walking through the house in a sleep-deprived state.

Overrated Baby Gear: What You Don’t Need

Looking back I honestly could have skipped many baby products and wish I had saved the money! These are the items that I “had-to-have” with my first baby that just didn’t prove that useful:

  • Changing Table: It surprised me that once baby came I didn’t use this for very long. Instead, I kept basic diaper-changing supplies in a small basket with a handle that I could carry around the house (and eventually have older kids bring to me) so I could change baby wherever it was convenient. If you are short on space like we were, I’d suggest just getting a changing table cushion topper and putting in on top of a short dresser or other piece of furniture you already have to save space.
  • Wipe Warmer: Some people love the wipe warmer … it just wasn’t something I ended up using since I didn’t stay in one place to change diapers. My kids never seemed to mind the temperature of wipes straight from the package either.
  • Diaper Waste Pail: Before we switched to cloth diapers we used an expensive diaper waste pail but it was a pain to use and actually made things smell worse. Our solution? Diapers went in the kitchen trash, which is pretty small and we took out daily anyway. This cut down on the smell and simplified things.
  • Nursing Pillow: I’m sure they can be awesome and many moms love them, but I personally could never get in a comfortable position using them and always ended up using a regular bed pillow or throw pillow instead.
  • Crib Bedding: I know, I know … it is so cute and there are so many fun options. Honestly, I got sucked in and spent way too much money on a fancy bedding set with my first. Then I came to find out that apparently bumper pads are really assassins that will kill your baby in his sleep, blankets aren’t recommended for baby (and neither are pillows), and oh, yeah… my baby hated his crib anyway! Plus, the set I picked out wasn’t gender neutral and when we had a girl next, the bedding didn’t really fit. Stick to a neutral-color organic crib sheet instead. It’s cheaper and much more versatile.
  • Diaper Bag: What? No diaper bag? Of course you need something to carry the baby gear in, but the easiest thing I’ve found is to just add baby items to my purse. For longer outings, carry a basic backpack that doubles as my purse and diaper bag. (Bonus of this method: my husband doesn’t mind carrying it.)
  • Baby Bathtub: I’m guilty of purchasing several of these over the years because they seem like such a great idea, but it turns out that there is an easier and cheaper option that works better. It is this novel invention called: the sink. While baby bathtubs are cute, I’ve always found it easier to bathe baby in the sink or the shower with me.
  • Bumbo Seat: These things are supposed to be great (though I’ve seen several stories of babies being injured or killed if the seat isn’t used correctly), but by the time my kids were big enough to sit in them they weren’t fans of being restrained. Over the years, I’ve learned to avoid items that can only be used for a short time and the Bumbo seat definitely makes this list. Other items on this list include things like walkers, bouncers, jumpers, etc.
  • Baby Food Makers: Since my first baby, I’ve moved away from buying or making pureed “baby food” and now stick to soft diced first foods that encourage baby to feed himself. Turns out, babies don’t need watered-down foods pureed in a high-tech specialized baby food maker. If you do want to puree, try the blender or get an inexpensive immersion blender that can be used in dozens of other ways in your kitchen.
  • Designer Hospital Gown: This is the item I laugh at myself about the most. To be fair, I have friends who have gorgeous magazine-worthy pictures with their designer gown and full makeup … in labor. Unfortunately, I am not that kind of laboring mom. I’m more of the stark-naked-messy-hair-look-like-I’m-half-dead-after-24-hours-of-labor type and my designer hospital gown quickly became a really expensive pillow covering when I could no longer stand to have it on me. Regular hospital gowns are ugly, but you won’t feel bad if you get bodily fluids on them (and you don’t have to wash them!).
  • Anything Plastic: I wish I’d known a decade ago what I know now about plastic products as I’ve now gotten rid of almost all of the plastic in our house. Now I know to seek out toys, bottles, spoons, etc. that aren’t plastic. Bonus: wood toys are a lot easier on the eyes when they’re laying around the house!

Best Baby Products (You Actually Need)

The list of most-used items will vary from mom to mom, but these are the ones that I wish I’d known to get with my first and that I still use today. All of these items can be used for several ages and stages and have held up really well through multiple babies.

The Essential Baby Gear

When it comes right down to it, a baby doesn’t need a lot (except their mama!). Here are some basics every baby needs. (Mom needs some essentials too for postpartum recovery … see the recommendations at the bottom of this post.)

  • A Car Seat: This goes without saying (they won’t let you leave the hospital without it), but a high quality car seat is worth the investment and one of our top priorities from a safety perspective. We chose this car seat for its high safety ratings (and because you can fit three of them across the back of most cars). It works for baby from newborn until booster seat and has been extremely durable.
  • A Capsule Wardrobe of Organic Baby Clothes: Instead of buying dozens of cute baby clothes (that babies wear about once before they outgrow them), I wish I’d known with my first what I do now: buy a few high-quality organic staple pieces in each size. This way, not only was I able to buy higher quality baby clothes that last longer and are more durable, but I ended up spending less on clothes and was much less overwhelmed with the mountain of baby laundry.
  • Muslin Swaddling Blankets: I wish I’d found these lightweight all-purpose blankets with my first baby. They are lightweight and big enough to be a great swaddling blanket, nursing cover, and burp cloth for a baby with reflux. They are cute and very functional.
  • Organic Burp Cloths: Some people might say this falls under the “unnecessary” category, but let’s face it … motherhood is messy. I prefer to have a stack of good burp cloths on hand to try and save at least a few of my shirts from the laundry. Of course, you could also opt for few extra muslin blankets.
  • Eco-Friendly Diapers: Diapers are obviously on the list of essentials. We made the decision to cloth diaper to save money, but also because this was a safer option for baby. It really isn’t much more work and we have had far fewer leaks than with regular diapers. Bum Genius cloth diapers are adjustable to fit from newborn to potty training and resell for a good price when you are done. I also kept some earth-friendly disposable diapers on hand for convenience when out and about.
  • A Natural Crib: There are a lot of crib options. After a lot. of research, we settled on the Babyletto crib that is Greenguard Gold Certified and screened for 360 VOCs and over 10,000 chemicals and tested to be Lead and phthalate safe. It also has a non-toxic finish and is beautiful!
  • Organic Crib Mattress and Bedding: One of the questions I am most frequently asked is about organic mattresses for babies and children. This is the crib mattress we use and love. I feel so strongly about an organic mattress being a worthwhile investment from a health perspective that I’m putting it on my list of essentials for baby.
  • Organic Crib Bedding: No, I don’t mean bumpers and quilts. Take the money you save skipping those and get the bedding you really need. Don’t cover your new organic mattress in plastic … go for an an organic fitted crib sheet and organic crib mattress pad.
  • A Good Stroller: For older babies, we most often just use a lightweight umbrella stroller, but especially when I had a baby and a young toddler at the same time, a high quality double stroller was really helpful. Now, with only one toddler, this lightweight umbrella stroller is the one I take everywhere.

Handy Extras

Although I don’t like to buy things that last only for a short time, these were invaluable in those early baby days (and if helps Mom sleep, it’s worth it!).

  • A Baby Bouncer: For the most part, we avoid baby items that only work for a short time (bassinet, bumbo, swing, etc.) but the one that my husband swears by is a simple baby bouncer that actually bounces. My theory is that this small bouncing movement mimics my movements while pregnant and this is my hubby’s best trick for getting the baby to sleep so I can shower or run errands once in a while.
  • Baby Swing: I remember well the sweet early days of my first baby. We would cozy up together in our apartment and snuggle and stare all day at one another. Bliss! Then another baby came. And another … and another! I discovered quickly I needed another way to rock the baby. A good baby swing was a lifesaver, keeping the new baby happy and content while I fed and played with the others! This one gets rave reviews for having multiple motions that mimic how a parent would rock their baby (not just up and down or side to side).
  • Baby Carrier: Another way to free up hands but still hold baby. After a lot of research, I saved up for the Ergo baby carrier and I wish I’d purchased it sooner. It removed the need for a bouncer, stroller, etc. and I especially like that it supports baby’s hips correctly to help prevent hip-related problems. Be sure to get the newborn insert as well if you plan to use it for a newborn. I also like the Moby Wrap as a carrier for new babies as it cradles them carefully and with proper hip position. I used this almost every day the first few months.
  • Organic Swaddle: My babies never liked to be swaddled and would only let me swaddle them in muslin blankets for a few minutes at a time, but some of my mom friends swear by them! Swaddle sacks are great for helping baby sleep longer (and that makes everyone happy!). Just be sure to swaddle your baby safely.
  • Snot Sucker: If this thing existed a decade ago, no one told me about it. A veteran mom friend gave me one of these as a baby gift and while I thankfully don’t have to use it often, it is tremendously helpful when it is needed! Basically, it is a device that let’s you get the snot out of baby’s nose so he can breathe. It sounds strange, but it works really well. This is the one I have and I like that it doesn’t require filters and is softer silicone (unlike some other brands).

For Feeding

Breast feeding simplifies this category, but you’ll certainly need to have a few items as baby grows:

  • Ready, Set, Food!: I really wish this had been around when I had my little ones. In my opinion, it’s the most important feeding tool you can have because because it can help reduce the risk of developing a food allergy by up to 80%. It’s a simple supplement (with a very clean ingredient list) that you add to baby’s bottle (expressed breastmilk or formula) and is based on some very solid research. Read more about it here.
  • Breastmilk Storage: Many breastfeeding moms need to pump milk for time away from baby whether for work or for a date night. While the common breastmilk storage bags are flexible for freezer storage, I just don’t like the idea of my baby’s milk sitting in plastic for months. These silicone trays are freezer-friendly and the frozen milk is easy to remove and defrost quickly for bottle feeding.
  • Breast Pump: I don’t pump the first six months, but when baby is older and I am able to get away, I pump so that I can keep nursing longer. I like this one because it is very compact, travels easily and is hands free.
  • Glass Baby Bottle: The first solid food our babies get is always bone broth (more on that here). My favorite way to feed them bone broth is through a bottle, as they are already used to the sucking motion from breastfeeding. Since children are especially susceptible to the dangers of plastic, I use safe and eco-friendly glass bottles. Don’t worry about giving glass to a baby, the bottles come with a protective covering!
  • Wooden High Chair: We bought a wooden high chair after our third baby and it’s one item I wish we had from the beginning! Typical high chairs are made of harmful plastic, and I don’t want my baby’s food touching it. And let’s be real … most of them are ugly. Wooden high chairs are sturdy, easy to clean, and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Waterproof Bibs: Things can get messy when you take a baby-led weaning approach to solid food! Rather than adding to the laundry pile after every meal, stock up on bibs that actually work. These bibs are waterproof (which is especially helpful when feeding babies bone broth) and larger than traditional ones to really contain the mess.

For Bathing

Nothing better than a cute baby in the bathtub! I have made many of my own baby care products over the years but there is some gear that makes bath time more fun:

  • Baby Wash: I like to make my own baby wash, but sometimes I run out of time for my DIY version and need a backup. In those instances, there are a few natural store-bought baby washes I use. Shea Moisture is my favorite (although recently bought by Unilever, I have not yet seen a shift in ingredients or quality). I also love the products from the MadeOf brand.
  • Baby Lotion: Another must-have from Shea Moisture is their baby lotion. I personally love the frankincense and myrrh lotion. You know that delicious new baby smell? It really is like they bottled it in this baby lotion! Of course, if you prefer homemade, my basic lotion recipe is gentle enough to use on little ones.
  • Sea Wool Bath Sponge: You know those tiny, colorful washcloths for babies? You don’t really need them. I think a natural sea wool bath sponge is just as gentle and it doesn’t create more unnecessary laundry.
  • Wooden Brush and Comb: I’ve gone through a lot of baby brushes and combs over the years and these are my favorite. The wood is sturdy so I can throw it in my diaper bag, and the goat bristles are great for preventing cradle cap.
  • Homemade Baby Products: Many baby products contain ingredients I wouldn’t use myself and most certainly wouldn’t use on a new baby! Here are the recipes I use.

For Mama (Last but Not Least!)

Mom has needs too, especially post-partum. Here’s what I wouldn’t have been without:

  • Mama Bottom Spray: Moms, don’t skip this self-care step! Mama bottom spray can bring relief and quicken healing after a vaginal delivery. I used this homemade recipe several times a day for up to the first six weeks after delivery, or this is a great ready-made option.
  • Sitz Bath Soak: Taking frequent sitz baths post-delivery is essential for proper healing and to avoid infection. It may seem like a tedious task when you have a newborn to care for and milk coming in, but it’s so important to take the time to relax and recover for your own health. You can make your own or use a store-bought option with good ingredients.
  • Nipple Cream: With ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, and soothing essential oils, this nipple cream from Radiant Life is wonderful for dry skin and stretch marks. It’s also my favorite nipple cream! Apply it to sore or cracked nipples after a nursing session, and simply wipe off any excess before nursing again.
  • Reusable Nursing Pads: After baby is born, it can take several weeks for breastmilk to regulate. This means your milk may let down before you’re ready to nurse your baby. These reusable nursing pads are absorbent, eco-friendly, and they won’t irritate your likely already-tender nipples.
  • Chlorine-Free Maxi Pads: During regular cycles, I prefer using a menstrual cup for my feminine care needs. Since that’s obviously not an option during postpartum healing, gentle pads are the way to go. Be sure to get some that are chlorine-free like these. They won’t irritate you and will allow you at least a few hours of rest in between changes.
  • An Instant Pot: Not a specific baby item, but an awesome kitchen device that shortens cooking time and makes cooking nourishing, healthy food quick and easy. I reviewed it here, but this electric pressure cooker allows you to prepare and cook food in a short amount of time (like stews and roasts in under an hour) which is a major plus when you don’t have free hands thanks to a newborn.

Bottom Line

Doing your research and having the right baby products is certainly helpful when the time comes, but it isn’t everything. Babies have a way of turning your life (and your nesting plans) upside down (but in the best way). Enjoy those new baby snuggles and don’t forget to put self-care at the top of your list of things to do … before and after pregnancy!

What baby items do you use and recommend? Share in the comments below!

15 Baby Products You Actually Need- and ones you dont

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