I hesitate about writing a post about essential baby items every first time parent needs because if I’m honest no family’s situation is going to be alike, thus their needs won’t be either. For example, a stroller was a huge essential for me when I became a first time mom, as that was our main mode of transportation. We hardly drove anywhere since we lived in the heart of downtown Vancouver. But I also knew some mama’s who never strolled with their babies. They were either a) always in a car, or b) always carried their baby in a carrier or wrap. But with all that said, I have been asked many times by friends and family which baby essentials I recommend, so I have curated a list of my personal recommendations, being as conscious as possible to pare it down to the absolute essentials.
1. Stroller – especially if you live in an urban part of town. I personally did all my errands with my workhorse buggy – grocery shopping, passport renewal, doctor’s visit. The basket underneath was HUGE, so I could fill it with A LOT and not feel it weigh down my stroller. The Uppababy Vista
is a larger upfront investment, but in my opinion, is well worth it if you plan to use it often. When you’re using it daily, whether on the sidewalks, the seawall, or on uneven pavement, you will appreciate how smooth the ride is for you and baby. When you turn that bad boy, it will maneuver so easily, you could do it with one hand. It’s also a must for travelers. I wrote about why I especially loved it for traveling in this post
. We also have a smaller umbrella stroller by Maclaren
, which I purchased second hand. It’s also a trusted brand, so I knew that if it was in good condition (which it was), it would still be a high quality stroller to use as our secondary stroller. We kept this one in our car since it was so compact. We only used it for quick trips once our son was in the toddler stage. As opposed to the Uppababy, he could easily get in and out of the Maclaren by himself. So when he was tired (which was almost never), instead of walking, he could just hop into the stroller himself.
Uppababy Stroller with Nuna Pipa Carseat attached plus the Piggyback (aka skateboard) for our toddler
2. Baby Carrier – for when the baby wanted out of the stroller, I appreciated being able to hold him close to me without compromising my hands. This became especially important when baby number two came along. Keeping a busy toddler out of harms way means having use of both hands. I personally have a Baby K’tan
, Solly Baby Wrap
and a Beco Gemini
. Each has it’s own benefits, but I would argue you don’t need all three. I only used the Beco carrier for my firstborn, but he didn’t always love being carried. It’s my younger son who enjoyed being closely carried, and hence why I invested in the K’tan and Solly. The Beco is great for back support, has the longest life in terms of how long you can wear your babies for, and is easily adjustable for different body types. The Beco fit my petite 5’2″ frame as well as my tall 6’2″ husband simply by adjusting the straps. We could transition the baby in under two minutes between my husband and I with the Beco. The K’tan is only sized for me. I got an XS and it fit perfectly. The K’tan is the quickest carrier to throw on since it’s already “wrapped” to your body. I wore my baby from 2 months to about 7 months in the K’tan. I wore him a lot during my travels to Australia so I was glad that I got the air wicking breathable material. Neither of us ever overheated. Lastly, the Solly was great from the newborn stage until about 4 months. It can be adjusted to fit all different body types, but requires some wrapping skills. I learned by watching this
video. Once you get it, you won’t forget it. I loved how soft the Solly was against my skin, since I’m a sucker for high quality breathable fabrics. If y’all have any specific questions about each of these three carriers, please let me know in the comments!
Loved being hands free with the Solly!
My husband in the Beco
3. Bouncy chair
– when you want to put baby down near you for a nap, or just to let him/her watch you, this is a great essential to have around. You could just lie baby on the floor, but I find babies like the feeling of being snuggled and on a slight angle to see better. This is especially true if your baby has reflux. I also had an electric swing chair
, but I found that this becomes redundant after only a few months. I would argue it isn’t worth the investment, unless you get it for free, or can borrow it from a friend. These are both items you can pick up second hand at really low costs. Just make sure you wash the fabric before using.
This bouncy chair is a GAME CHANGER.
4. Muslin blankets
. People always say blankets are a must, which is true, but beyond that, I want to stress quality over quantity. You don’t need a million of these blankets, but ideally at least 4-5 of them that are made of a soft cotton (I personally love muslin), and a good size (at least 47″ x 47″). The size is important because being a generous size means you can use that extra material to really swaddle a baby without fabric running out, that is if you choose to swaddle. I know there are conflicting views on swaddling, but it worked well on both of my kids in the infant stage (they both enjoyed the security of being wrapped). Of course, once they started breaking out of their swaddles, I stopped wrapping them. However these blankets were also great for the following: stroller blankets, stroller covers, nursing covers, burp cloth, blanket to lay down on at home or outside. They are so lightweight and easy to throw in your bag. Lastly, I use them inside the crib as a security blanket, which my nearly one year old still loves to fall asleep with all wrapped up in his hands.
Big brother holding his little burrito brother
Nemo protecting the baby during naptime
5. Car seat. I know this seems like a no brainer, but if you don’t own a car, and pretty much always take public transit or walk, then you don’t need one! We got a car seat
that easily clipped onto our stroller (with a universal car seat adapter). When looking for a car seat, we were looking for one where the baby could stay in the infant seat for as long as possible, thus we went with one where the weight restrictions were the highest. For our convertible car seat
, we went with one of the most narrow car seats on the market so it would seamlessly fit in our car. We love the Clek, but it is VERY heavy, so be aware. It’s not ideal to travel with, unless you have the carry case for it.
Nuna Pipa carseat. Love the canopy shade that is secured via magnet.
Clek Foonf convertible carseat. Comfy enough to sleep in!
Lastly, I will make a quick list of “sort of” essentials that I would consider important but not exactly necessary.
6. A Crib. We didn’t use a crib for the first 4 months of our oldest son’s life. We had it all ready to go, but he hated it. So in order for everyone to get some sleep, he co-slept with us. Then when he was getting more active, we decided to transition him to the crib. We sleep trained him, which many parents are against, but for us, it gave us our sanity back during the evenings. But I also know many families who never used a crib, and set up a small mattress on the floor for their babies. Do what makes sense for your family! We purchased our crib from Ikea
7. A Highchair. I fed my kids in my lap when first introducing them to solids, so we didn’t need a high chair until about year 1. I was given a really nice wooden chair
from a Toronto baby store, but I would argue just a plastic one from Ikea
is sufficient for your feeding needs.
8. A Diaper Bag is NOT necessary in my opinion. I just ended up putting all my baby items in my regular handbags, which served me well. With that said, my purses
were all very baby friendly. The baby items always found in my bag were baby wipes
, nursing cover
and swaddle blanket
. If I remember, I’ll usually have a teething toy
9. Breastfeeding Tools if you choose to breastfeed. I had a breast pump, but only used it when I went away for a weekend. Thus, unless you are planning on being away from your baby for a day or two, I would argue you don’t need it. I only purchased a pump
because my health insurance covered it. With that said, it worked really well. If you really need one in the beginning to build supply, consider renting from your local hospital. I also had a nursing pillow
gifted to me, which helped with positioning, however a regular pillow can easily do the trick too.
10. Choose regular furniture over baby furniture. I found baby specific furniture very overpriced and quite frankly too small. Don’t they know how much clothes babies accumulate? I got adult sized dressers from Ikea: the Hemnes dresser
. Or if you do find a really good deal on baby furnishings secondhand, scoop that up. Just make sure that whatever furniture you put in baby’s room, it’s secured to the walls.
11. Baby Monitor: We never even had a baby monitor for our firstborn. We lived in a small condo apartment when he was born, so we could hear every little rustle he made. But once we moved into a larger home, and he became more active, we decided to get a Nest Cam
instead of a baby monitor. The benefit of the Nest Cam is that you can use the cam long after the kids are grown for security purposes throughout your home. It also connects to multiple smart devices, and notifies you when there’s movement. The cam also has a built in microphone so you can hear and speak through the camera. We have since purchased a second cam for the kids play space all the way in the attic, so I can watch them play and speak to them as I prepare dinner. If you already have other Nest products, such as the thermostat or smoke alarms, they all connect in one central app. There’s usually sales on all nest products, so wait for one before you purchase.
12. Baby Toys. You will soon learn that kids love tupperware, wrapping paper, water bottles as much (if not more) than actual baby toys. So I caution you before spending too much money on toys. The first toy both of our kids loved were their Jellycat
stuffed animals. These are super soft, easily washable plush toys they can sleep with or take along on your outings. These toys have become more than toys: they are symbols of comfort and security. Whenever we’ve traveled anywhere and slept in a new environment, these stuffed animals are the one constant the kids can depend on as they fall asleep. They’re also large enough that it’s difficult to lose, but small enough to fit in your bag. I wash them weekly together with the kids sheets. I just throw it inside a pillowcase for less wear and tear.
There you have it! My pared down baby essential list. And I know some parents could even pare it down further. But these are the go-tos that served me well for my baby’s first year and beyond. I have been able to pass down all of these items to my second baby, including clothing and shoes. If you have a Once Upon a Child or another kids consignment store in your city, make use of them. My favourite high quality kids consignment store in Vancouver was MacGillycuddy’s
in Kerrisdale and for Toronto, it was Little White Sneakers
. I find a lot of brand new to almost new items at a fraction of the price for my kids. Thing like shoes, I tend to buy brand new since they go through a lot of wear and tear.
Lastly, if you have some wonderful friends and family who want to spoil you and are asking you what you need for when baby comes, ask for this: food delivery service during the first few months of baby’s life (obviously the food is for the parents) &/or gift cards. The gift cards can be to a grocery store, a restaurant, or places you can specifically pick out baby items like Amazon and Ikea. I love Amazon for well, everything. They are hands down the cheapest place for diapers. We used cloth diapers for our first son, and even purchased those from Amazon
. Laundry has overflowed since adding another baby to the mix, so I’ve nixed the cloth for this season of life. But if I ever do get a handle on the laundry situation, I would 100% use G diapers again. I buy a ton of other things for the kids on Amazon too. Sunglasses, sun hats, even sunscreen. Well.ca
is also great for carrying a lot of high quality, organic baby products. However my rule is that I only buy things from there when they’re on sale.
Once upon a time when we used G Diapers!
I could go on and on, but I hope this somewhat bare bones list is of use to you and your loved ones who are expecting. Let me know if you would like me to expand on anything in my list. I’m happy to chat about my shopping habits to anyone who asks!