$1708.63.

That’s how much it would cost if you got the cheapest of everything on a typical baby-must-haves for first-time moms list. No really – I Googled “baby essentials,” copied that list of baby necessities, went on Amazon, checked for the lowest price of each thing, and added it all together.

$861.01.

That’s the actual amount I spent on things from my minimalist baby registry that included the absolute bare minimum baby essentials, and, as any other first-time mother would want, a few extra nice-to-have things.

What’s truly priceless?

Being 100% happy with every item I purchased for my little one, including going premium where it mattered. In other words, having the baby budget to provide for everything our son needed without sacrificing or compromising on anything.

Also, less clutter was also a huge added bonus.

Now that the first year has passed, I can reflect on what I believe to be the ideal list of things you need for a new baby.

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

baby essentials - a checklist of things you need for a new baby (and stuff to totally ditch)

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  • Learn where you stand to save the most
  • Detailed breakdown of hospital birth costs & first-year expenses to expect
  • How to get essential baby items for cheap or free
  • Action plan checklists, worksheets, and trackers to help you stay on budget

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In this post, you’ll find:

  • My top picks for the best baby purchases
  • A checklist of newborn essentials and practical extras, with details on quantities and best places to buy
  • Tips on where to buy baby things cheap and how to snag the best deals

My best baby purchases

When it came to buying stuff for my new baby, I did an insane amount of research because I wanted it all: to get quality products that offered the best features for my baby, all while clocking in under budget.

To start off this post, I wanted to highlight the baby purchases where I got the biggest bang for my baby bucks in regards to:

  • Quality
  • Price, compared to what else is out there
  • Actual/frequent use

Infant car seat

This was one of our premium purchases because we didn’t want to skimp when it came to car safety. But premium doesn’t mean we had to spend a boatload of money on it.

We picked this particular one because:

  • it had good reviews
  • it was at a price that didn’t break the bank
  • we’d get good mileage out of it, since it can be used as a rear-facing seat during infancy, converted to a front-facing seat, then still be used as a booster seat after that

Pack n play

This served a dual purpose. First and foremost, we wanted a temporary sleeping space for our son that was close to but not in our bed. I had a complicated delivery that made me virtually bedridden for 8 weeks and this made it much more convenient than the crib.

Second, it served its main purpose as a playpen and makeshift sleeping area if we weren’t at home.

At a price point that was the same as or even cheaper than other bedding alternatives but with way more functionality, choosing this option was a no-brainer for us.

Stroller

Some parents go without strollers. But since we went on daily walks with our son, it was a good investment for us. We chose this particular one, which came in under $100, because it could be used from newborn to a couple years of age.

This was way better than the suggestion that other lists make of having two separate strollers, one where the infant car seat snaps in, and then another umbrella stroller for when your baby is older. Having only one stroller was a lot cheaper, and meant there was one less bulky baby item to store.

We didn’t think the feature of being able to snap in the car seat was that important. If you’re worried about waking the baby up when taking him or her out of the car seat, we’ve found that for the most part, babies are deep sleepers so they probably won’t notice and just sleep through it.

And once they learn to walk, let them make it a habit to. It’s good for their legs.

Cloth diapers

At first, Papa Chang was really hesitant about cloth diapering, but agreed to try it a few weeks in. Like so many other things in life, it wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as we imagined it to be and we’ve stuck with it since. We simply use cloth diapers at home, while switching to disposables for outings and nighttime.

Parents spend an average of $30 per month on diapers, or $360 a year. Even though our son is almost 2 years old now, we’ve only spent about $225 total on both reusable cloth and disposable diapers.

That’s about $500 we saved.

Regardless of whichever system you use, be sure to check out our cloth vs disposable diaper debate post to find out my number one tip for how to save money on diapers, using a strategy that most articles totally miss mentioning.

List of baby necessities

In this section, I’ll go through major categories of common baby items and share these key details:

  • What is essential
  • The best places to buy
  • How many you should purchase & why
  • What items didn’t make the cut & why

If you don’t have time to read everything, feel free to just use the summary table below. Otherwise, scroll past it to get our detailed take on how to shop smart for all these baby items.

List of Baby Essentials

We’ve created a visual catalog of of all these newborn must-haves on Amazon.com. You can also click the individual links in the table below to be directed straight to the products.

Some items are marked as optional, but are highly recommended because they’ll make your life easier.

QuantityItemNotes
1.PREGNANCY 
1-2 bottlesPrenatal vitamins 
2-3Bras with supportChoose bras that are nursing bras
1-2Tummy sleevesOptional, FREE with CHANGREADERDISCOUNT coupon code (just pay shipping)
 Maternity clothes 
1-2 pairsComfortable shoes 
1 bottleBody creamFor stretch mark relief
1Pregnancy pillowOptional, get $50 off with coupon code CHANGREADERDISCOUNT
1What to Expect When You’re Expecting bookOptional
$100-$200ESTIMATED TOTAL 
2.CLOTHINGGet secondhand as much as you can
4-8Onesies, 0-6 months 
4-8Onesies, 6-9 months 
4-8Onesies, 9-12 monthsMay want to offset with shirts
4-8Onesies, 12-18 monthsCan replace with shirts
4-8Pants, 6-12 months 
4-8Pants, 12-18 months 
1-3Rompers/dress-up outfits 
4-6 pairsSocks/booties 
3-6Hats 
1-3Sweaters/jackets 
3-4Pajamas (1-piece) 
1-2Winter wear (blanket sleeper, fleece suit) 
$100-$250ESTIMATED TOTAL 
3. NURSERY 
1Crib 
1-2Crib mattress 
2Waterproof pads 
2Fitted sheets 
1Pack n play playardExcellent alternative to a bassinet for the first few months
3Receiving blankets 
1-2Heavier blankets 
1Baby monitorOptional if in small/one-story house
1Foam matOptional if play area is carpeted
1Area rugOptional if bedroom/play area is carpeted
$500-1000ESTIMATED TOTAL 
4.BATHING/CHANGING 
20Cloth diapers 
40Cloth diaper inserts 
 Disposable diapers 
1Changing padUse blanket or towel
 Baby wipes 
2TowelsFind alternative in house
1Diaper bagFind alternative in house
2Baby wash 
1Diaper rash creamOptional
1Bath tub 
1Potty trainer and/or toilet seat ring 
6-12WashclothsFind alternative in house
 $200-$1000 ESTIMATED TOTAL 
5.NURSING/FEEDING 
 If nursing: 
1Breast pumpCheck if insurance will cover the cost
4-8Milk storage containersGet reusable ones, or just buy feeding bottles with caps
2-3Nursing brasGet bras that will work during both maternity & nursing phases
12Nursing padsGet reusable ones
1Nursing pillowOptional, FREE with CHANGREADERDISCOUNT coupon code (just pay shipping)
1-2Nursing coverOptional, FREE with CHANGREADERDISCOUNT coupon code (just pay shipping)
1-2Nipple cream 
4-8Baby bottlesOptional, if bottle-feeding
 If feeding formula: 
 FormulaSign up for formula rewards programs to get free samples and coupons
4-10Baby bottles 
2-3Extra bottle nipples 
2Bottle brush 
 When eating solids: 
 Baby foodMake at home
2-3Burp clothsFind alternative in house
2-3Bibs 
2-3Small, soft utensils 
2-3Plastic bowls 
1Booster seat 
$200-$1000ESTIMATED TOTAL 
6.MISCELLANEOUS 
1Stroller 
1Car seat 
3Car shades 
1Baby carrierOptional
1Baby swing/bouncerOptional
 ToysBuy used
 Outlet covers 
1What to Expect in the First YearOptional
$200-$1500ESTIMATED TOTAL 
$1300-$4450ESTIMATED FINAL BUDGETFOR EVERYTHING*

*This is a very general estimate and meant to give a reasonable estimate for most expecting mothers. It is definitely possible to come in under this amount (and kudos if you do!).

1. Pregnancy

Growing a baby takes a lot of resources and energy. Mama should be at optimal health and comfort during this important stage.

Check out these tips to build a maternity wardrobe on a budget to learn ways to shave expenses on the things you’ll need before baby comes out.

2. Newborn clothing essentials

People love buying cute little baby clothes, so get ready to receive a whole bunch of gifted outfits.

For this very reason, don’t buy any infant clothes because you’re likely to get more than you need as gifts.

If you do end up needing to buy clothes, go for second-hand stuff because your itty bitty one won’t stay that tiny for long.

How many baby clothes do I need in each size

For most people, 4-8 outfits should be fine, though I’d recommend going for larger sizes in the early stages.

Babies grow very quickly, especially in the first couple of months, so it’s better to have clothes they can grow into.

Also, there is no rhyme or reason to sizing so physically match the clothing to your baby when choosing the size, instead of relying solely on the tags.

3. Nursery

We ultimately decided to get our son’s bedding items used, including the crib, mattresses, waterproof protectors, and bedsheets. We felt comfortable doing so because we thoroughly investigated the recall information of the model that we purchased, and the lady who sold the set to us said it was never used (her son took to co-sleeping right from the start).

You decide what you want to do at your discretion.

CAUTION:

Purchasing your crib or bedding product brand-new and registering it promptly with the manufacturer increases your chances of being notified should there be a recall. If you purchase your item used or pre-owned, there is a risk that you won’t be informed of a recall, or that you won’t qualify for a replacement product.

If you do choose to buy your items brand-new, we prefer Target so you can go in-store to see before you buy. It’s also a lot easier to return something this large in-store, rather than footing the bill for shipping to send it back to an online retailer. For other bedding materials besides the crib itself, Amazon.com usually has the most competitive prices.

Since nursery items are a bit pricier than stuff from the other categories, being selective here will save you a bunch of money. If the baby is going to be in your bedroom instead of a separate nursery, you can probably cross off quite a few of the items on this checklist.

As for the every-popular baby monitor, we don’t think it is necessary if you can hear sounds from the baby room. We live in a small one-story, and therefore opted to not get one.

huggies little snugglers diapers

4. Bathing/Changing

There are lots of ways to get diapers on the cheap. In general, Target’s Up and Up brand or Amazon’s Subscribe and Save option are both cost-effective ways to get disposable ones.

We went with cloth diapers and saved a bundle. If you’re open to doing the same, Amazon has some budget-friendly options for cloth diapers as well.

5. Nursing/Feeding

I decided to go brand new-only on anything that was gonna go into my baby’s mouth. I got most of my feeding gear as free baby samples, but Amazon offers good prices for any of the items from this category if you do need to buy.

There is one exception to the Amazon-is-probably-cheapest rule: formula. First, sign up for rewards programs (Similac and Enfamil are the two I have personally used) if you haven’t already.

Then, buy your formula from a brick and mortar store like Target or Sam’s Club so you can apply manufacturer’s coupons, which you’ll get tons of from those free rewards programs.

Nipple cream was something I paid a little more for to have organic, as I knew my baby would naturally end up ingesting it.

As for solid food, we introduced them at about 4-5 months. We only used the pre-made baby food packs if we got them as gifts. Otherwise, we basically threw fresh produce into a food processor to make our own baby food.

6. Big-Ticket Items

These are the more expensive necessities that you really can’t get away with not buying, like a stroller and car seat. Since these bigger items are gonna cost you, be sure to check out our tips below on how to get good deals on baby stuff.

baby budget guide kit ebook

OVERWHELMED WITH FIGURING OUT HOW TO PLAN FINANCIALLY FOR BABY?

Get our Baby Budget Kit, with step-by-step guidance on how to budget for a new baby:

  • Learn where you stand to save the most
  • Detailed breakdown of hospital birth costs & first-year expenses to expect
  • How to get essential baby items for cheap or free
  • Action plan checklists, worksheets, and trackers to help you stay on budget

Baby “essentials” that didn’t make our cut

There are tons of baby items that sound like necessities, but they really aren’t that vital. With a little creativity, you can find other substitutes that will function just as fine. Don’t pay that baby markup if you don’t have to.

Mittens: We cut our baby’s fingernails often enough, usually when he was asleep, that he barely needed these. On the rare occasion, we just used socks as makeshift mittens.

Dresser: We donated some of our own clothes to free up dresser space, and then put his most used articles of clothing in free storage organization cubes that we got as a gift, so we didn’t need a dresser.

Changing table: Beds and sofas worked perfectly fine as a surface to change the baby on.

Diaper pail and liners: Not sure why you need a separate trash can just for diapers. The smell isn’t bad if you wrap the diaper tightly and throw out the trash regularly.

Baby shampoo: We used body wash for our son’s hair. One less item to buy and take up space in our bathroom.

Gentle laundry detergent: We used regular detergent and had no problems at all. If you’re concerned about your baby’s sensitivity, toss one piece of clothing with your regular laundry and see if your child’s skin has any reaction. If not, then there’s no need to separate the baby’s clothes from everyone elses – so much more convenient!

Pacifiers: Since I had problems breastfeeding, I didn’t use a pacifier at all because I wanted to prevent any nipple confusion. Even if the next kid doesn’t have feeding issues, I don’t think I’ll go with a pacifier since our son did fine without one.

What do I need to buy for a baby before it arrives

If you just want to know which newborn necessities are absolutely critical to have by the time baby is born, there are only five:

tommee tippee newborn bottle set
portable bed playard playpen

summer infant flip convertible stroller

graco darcie convertible car seat rear facing to booster

Where to buy baby things for cheaper

For used items, Craigslist or apps like Decluttr and Letgo are best, since you can meet up with the seller and have a look at the item’s quality before you make the purchase.

For brand-new stuff, I basically stuck to Amazon and Target before my baby was born so I could take advantage of my baby registry benefits.

For extra things that we needed after my son came along, I mainly stuck to Target for several reasons:

  • I got my item immediately (rather than waiting for Amazon’s shipping)
  • Target runs lots of promotions for baby items
  • I got 5% back with Target’s RedCard
  • It was easy to return the item if I ended up not needing it after all

How to get good deals on new baby stuff

1. Choose multipurpose baby items
The smartest way to save is to buy one thing that can serve many functions. Multipurpose items that will last from infancy into childhood are the biggest money savers. Here are some things that fit this description:

  • Baby crib that can be converted to toddler bed
  • Car seat that is rear-facing for infants, then becomes booster seat for kids
  • Stroller with fold-back seats that are flat for babies and upright for toddlers
  • Bouncer that infants can lay in, that later converts to a seat for a toddler
  • Toys for different levels of development

2. Save it all up for the baby registry discount
Most baby registries will let you buy anything remaining on your list at 10-15% off.

If you are able to plan it out right, buying everything you need in your first year using that registry completion discount can result in big savings.

amazon baby box for free banner

target baby registry - free welcome bag and discounts

3. Wait until promo days for Target gift cards
Target regularly runs promotions where you can spend $x to get a $x gift card, which I always took advantage of. Since I was gonna be buying stuff at Target anyway, why not get it for less?

4. Using cashback sites

If you plan to buy online, be sure to stop by Rakuten first so you don’t miss out on free cashback. Rakuten gets a commission for listing retailers on their site, but they split that commission with you!

rakuten ebates review - claim $10 welcome bonus

Simply log in at Rakuten, click on the store you want to shop at, and you’ll automatically be awarded cashback if you end up buying something that qualifies for the reward.

Rakuten is 100% free to use, and I’ve saved so much through them.

If you’re a first-time user, snag a $10 welcome bonus!

5. Super easy coupon stacking

If I’m at Target, my favorite coupon stacking store, I like to use manufacturer coupons (like the ones you get from your baby registry) along with Target’s Cartwheel app to double up on savings. If it coincides with promo days for gift cards (see tip #3 above), that’s the cherry on top.

6. Save purchases for Christmas time
In addition to stores having excellent sales, it’s also the perfect opportunity to drop hints to friends and family so they get you the things you need for your baby (if you’re comfortable doing that).

Conclusion

Start your growing family’s finances on the right foot by focusing on baby necessities. Get the list of things you need for a new baby with the bare minimum baby essentials plus the practical extras from an experienced, money-savvy mom. Stick to a minimalist baby registry of baby must-haves for first-time moms so you give your newborn the quality of life they deserve without it breaking your bank.

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AUTHOR BIO

Sylvia, aka Mama Chang, is a personal finance blogger out to prove the possibility of navigating high-cost living on a low-cost budget. Paid off college and condo in her 20's on under $55k salary. She wants to teach others how optimize money to maximize quality of life. Dual income with kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Pinterest | Instagram