I was simultaneously convinced that newborns need a ton of stuff, and also that they don’t need much stuff at all. It depended who I asked.

I figured out that the only way to conclude on what a newborn needed was to prepare with the bare minimum, and just figure it out. Actually, I was pretty overwhelmed, so a lot of the first few weeks of having a newborn was troubleshooting and seeing where we needed to fill in the gaps.

Here’s a list of the things we bought, the things we inherited (second-hand and hand-me-downs) and what we actually could’ve done without, when our newborn came home from the hospital!

Stroller and carrying

I had our baby in the dead of winter (which was tough as it was), so we weren’t taking warm sunny walks; rather, we were going out in the wind and cold at the warmest hour of the day, and bundling up!

Regardless, here are a few essentials for getting outside with your newborn, from must-haves to nice-to-haves.

Stroller

You absolutely have to have a stroller, and little did I know just how amazing it would be to have a bassinet that clipped into my stroller as a first-time mom. Our bassinet and UPPAbaby Vista stroller were a lifeline for us from the winter into the spring, and we even used the bassinet attachment until our daughter was 4 months old.

Before becoming a parent, I would not have even known that bassinet strollers existed, but alas: this is the greatest thing for taking your newborn out for a walk.

Stroller accessories (nice-to-haves, and also essential)

If your baby is born in the winter, you’ll have to bundle them up! Newborns are tiny and can’t regulate their body temperatures very well. For winter, we NEEDED blankets or stroller “bunting” (a word I learned as a new parent), and we chose to bundle up our newborn in a little hat, swaddle, and two layers of blankets—one of which was her great-aunt’s baby blanket from the 1950s. <3

For summer, you may want insect netting covers, or a rain cover for your bassinet, to keep your baby dry during unexpected drizzles or storms while you are out. Sometimes I’d use a receiving blanket draped over the stroller to block the sun, or to encourage a nap while out shopping.

Baby carrier

I was too afraid to squeeze my newborn into a baby carrier until she was four weeks old. That was my loss, because learning the art of baby carrying saved my life and my sanity! It’s the most convenient way to carry around a newborn and be hands-free at the same time. Plus, your baby LOVES being close to you, hearing your heartbeat and snuggling up with mom or dad.

Newborn recommendations: the Baby Bjorn newborn carrier, or the Solly Wrap.

(While the Solly Wrap looks like rocket science and many people joke that it is, here is a vide on how to wrap it)

Car seat

I almost forgot to include a car seat! Unless you live in NYC where no one drives (but you still may need to take a taxi or Uber to a pediatrician appointment), you’ll be going places in the car. You need a really good car seat for your newborn! I recommend the UPPAbaby Mesa seat, which is what we got, and used up until 12 months. We got really good use out of it.

Sleeping

Newborns sleep, a whole bunch (or if you had our child, not much at all). Here’s where to put them.

Bassinet

Many people like their newborn to sleep next to them in a swivel bassinet. For this reason, we set up the one we had inherited from a family member whose child had “grown up.” As you may have read in my guide to “Where does a newborn sleep?” it turns out we never used it, but I will say that the majority of families do use this one.

Bassinet stand (for a stroller bassinet)

Plain and simple: we didn’t foresee this, but our daughter slept in the UPPAbaby bassinet plus the UPPAbaby bassinet stand, in our living room, for about four months. It worked for us!

Swaddles

I almost forgot that swaddles were an essential for us! We used simple HALO swaddles for newborns, and experimented with a few different materials, finding out that the linen one did NOT make sense for winter, and that fleece was actually a great find for us. It all takes trial and error to see what works with your home temperature and other factors.

Feeding

Newborns drink milk, whether breastmilk or formula. Here’s a starter list of what you might need.

Breastfeeding

I didn’t know I needed anything for breastfeeding. I thought you just plopped a baby on, and started nursing. After a few days, I learned that wow: there are lots of PRODUCTS for this process! Here are a few you can pick and choose from my top breastfeeding things in my baby registry:

  • Nursing bra or nursing tanks
  • Milk catcher
  • Nipple pads
  • Nipple balm

Pumping

For pumping moms, there are a lot of products to set up for sure. Parents who plan to pump may get information from friends, family or from the hospital or lactaction consultant, and while this is a topic of its own, some things that I got for free from Buy Nothing groups or my good friends were:

  • Spectra pump
  • Different sizes of flanges
  • Milk cooler for transport
  • Bottle brushes for cleaning pump parts
  • Dishwasher basket for having them not fly around in the dishwasher

Bottle feeding / formula feeding

This seems straightforward, but I quickly learned, from my experience giving my baby bottles, that babies sometimes have “preferences” regarding bottles! This was totally unexpected, so what happened was I had to try a few brands. Be prepared for this if you may have a baby with opinions!

  • Baby formula (potentially a main brand or type, and a backup)
  • Bottles (choose several brands)
  • Nipple attachments (make sure to use the one your pediatrician recommends, whether P or level 1)

Clothes

Yep, newborns need clothes. They don’t need a ton of options, though, unless your baby is born during months when temperatures are changing a lot like the cusp of spring or fall.

Onesies

Yes, onesies! I was lucky to get a whole bunch in NB (Newborn) size from my friend Steph, and when I found out my baby was measuring small, I picked up a few in size P for Preemie, from my local Buy Nothing group. What a great way to save money with a baby!

For the first few months, my daughter only wore zip-up long-sleeve “footie” onesies. They are easy, cute and cozy. Newborns don’t have tons of other options because they have to be kept warm in winter, and cool in summer, and they don’t wear shoes, of course.

For summer babies, get short-sleeve onesies and maybe some “shorts” to cover up baby’s thighs.

Accessories

Do newborns need accessories? Not really, to be honest. If you’re putting foot-less pants on your newborn, you may also need socks to keep their little feet warm.

Hats are also always a smart choice, for if it’s sunny where you live and you’ll be going out.

Some people choose to get “gloves” for their newborns so that they don’t scratch their faces. We didn’t really use these. There are mixed signals about it: some experts recommend letting their fingers be uncovered so that they can explore their hands.

Grooming

Newborn grooming is pretty simple, as most of them don’t have a lot of hair, and they only have to be bathed every few days to stay clean.

Bath stuff

We got a few good products for bathing our newborn:

  • Baby bath
  • Newborn/mild washcloths
  • Baby shampoo by Cerave

Most of these were what I classified as must-have essentials for our baby registry and I was right.

Skin and hair

Newborns tend to have dry skin, and some of them peel and get acne. I found the two basics to be baby lotion, and a little comb. Newborns kind of always look greasy, and they need a few weeks to get over the oily hair and dry skin thing.

Nails

I used a very fine nail file on my newborn’s fingers for a while. I’ve seen people also use an electric nail file for babies.

Diapering and changing

Diaper changing seems straightforward, but there are a few main things that you actually need for a newborn.

Diapers

The last essential category for newborn stuff that you’ll need is, of course, diapers. You will need a lot of them. Newborns can go through about 8-12 diaper changes per day, and they’re just always doing something in their diapers.

Most newborns will wear size N (newborn) diapers. My baby wore size P (Preemie) for a week, before sizing “up” to Newborn. After that, there’s size 1 and then 2, and they all are based on weight. I learned all about different brands, and my least favorite is Luvs, while my most favorite is Coterie.

Diaper pail or Diaper genie

We got a diaper genie for free, and it helps keep smells at bay. I recommend having one that closes completely (if you also want to keep pets out of it) to seal off smells. The Ubbi pail is popular. Ours became an integral part of setting up a minimalist nursery.

Keep in mind that if you have a large house or spend time between two floors of your home, a diaper genie on each floor is a good hack.

Wipes

Wipes are easy to buy. We got water wipes for ages, and then switched to Costco’s Kirkland brand.

Diaper cream

Some families use Vaseline or Aquaphor, and there are so many brands. For diaper rashes, you may want to get something more intense like Desitin, which makes a max strength version.

Changing pad

Yes, your baby needs a changing pad, unless you plan to change them on the floor or just on a table, but that may be really hard. We have the best-selling Keekaroo Peanut, and we’re using it into toddlerhood. Luckily, we got it from my cousin.

Diaper bag

I almost forgot to talk about diaper bags! There’s no need to buy a fancy one, as you can always use a small-size backpack as your diaper bag either at first, or forever. See all my tips for what to put in a newborn diaper bag as you start getting out with your baby.

Stuff I didn’t need

A lot of people talk about all sorts of fancy “must-have”s for newborns, and I didn’t use any of that. Plus, I was too tired figuring out how to get sleep with a newborn and nothing else really mattered.

I didn’t need one of those changing tables that is also a baby scale (although I wound up getting an infant scale later on), and I didn’t actually ever get proper “stroller bunting” or “car seat bunting.” We just used blankets—all hand-me-downs.

I did NOT use Coterie diapers (they are very expensive) in the first few weeks and months, because newborns go to the bathroom constantly, and fancy diapers are best for when babies start sleeping through the night.

I also did not buy fancy outfits, and of course, I did not get anything dry-clean only (although I did receive a gift of dry-clean-only baby clothing and I thought that was ridiculous). Things like newborn headbands hair bows are adorable, but not necessary (although I did use them for photos).

Conclusion

I’ve tried to pare down this list to the absolute bare minimum of things that a newborn needs, and I didn’t even mention toys, rattles, play mats, tummy time pillows and black-and-white books! So yes, there are lots of things that newborns need, but with time, you can develop your collection of “newborn stuff.”

I really recommend getting as much as you can via second-hand, thrift stores, Buy Nothing, family, friends and consignment shops. Newborns grow SO quickly, and before you know it, you’ll have a baby who is rolling, and then trying to crawl and then considering walking.

Above all, I’d make sure you have essentials in each of these categories, so that your newborn gets nice sleep, has a clean diaper, comfortable clean clothes, trimmed nails and a place to go when you’re going out for walks.

At the end of the day, newborns just need to sleep, eat and be clothed. You can choose to get this done in any way you like and on any budget.

(Photo: our newborn’s nursery before she was born, and it kind of stayed like this for another few weeks!)