A “less-is-more” checklist for new parents

What on earth does a person need to keep a baby happy, clothed, and comfortable during their first few weeks?

I remember feeling overwhelmed as we stocked up on supplies for our first child. Do I need 8 cloth diapers or 28? Six onesies or sixteen? And what the heck is a receiving blanket for?

I wrote this post way back in 2010 and many parents have found it helpful as they prepare for their baby's arrival. Since it's quite buried in my archives now I thought I'd share it again today. 

Pass it along to any friends you have who are expecting and wondering what they really need for their little one. 

New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean

The simple checklist below is designed to ease the transition to parenthood, whether it is your first time or your fifth and you've forgotten (again!).

A Word about Quantity:

There is no right or wrong answer to the “How many?” question on baby gear.

The numbers below we feel are fairly frugal – and for most people will be just enough. They should last your newborn for 2-3 days (expecting diaper blow-outs and spit-up changes) before laundry needs to be done.

You may choose to acquire fewer (and do laundry more often) or more, depending on your desires.

A word about links:

I have linked to a few products that I make and sell (LuSa Organics) because it means so much to us when you choose LuSa. I also link to a few products that we used and loved. No, these aren't paid sponsorships or ads in anyway. Just my opinion if what we love! 

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Tiny bodies lose heat faster than big bodies. Therefore babies need more layers than adults.

A simple rule is to add a layer to what you are comfortable wearing (unless your baby is skin-to-skin or otherwise close to your body in baby carrier under some of your layers.

Use your own judgment here – baby's skin should feel warm rather than cold, hot, or sweaty). If you are in a short sleeve shirt, baby will be comfortable in a long sleeve shirt. If you are in a jacket, bundle baby in warm clothing and then cover with a blanket.

New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean

  • 2 newborn baby hats (stretchy cotton or other absorbent natural fiber)

  • 6 Onesies or baby tees each in sizes NB and 0-3 (long or short sleeve or a combination, depending on season and climate) (My first baby never fit into size NB so it's a good idea to have the next size ready as well)

  • 4 outfits (footed long sleeve sleepers or simple, soft, comfortable, natural fiber clothing (wool, cotton), appropriate to your climate)

  • 4 sets of pajamas (gowns or wool or cotton footies)

  • 6 pairs of baby socks

  • Seasonal items, depending on your climate and the season

    • Sunhat

    • Snowsuit

    • Mittens

    • Warm clothing (rompers)

    • Warm booties

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Baby Care Basics

The items below we believe are must-haves for new babies and parents.

Go for quality over price, and shop second-hand (Craigslist, Ebay, thrift, or rummage) to stretch your dollars.

The list is short. There isn't much more than you that your baby really needs.

New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean

Edited to add: yes, I'm wearing my baby facing out. There are a number of reasons this is now discouraged. I had no idea! Forgive me. 😉

  • Baby carrier (try a stretchy cotton wrap (like the Moby Wrap above) for the first year, and/or an adjustable, padded ring sling like Over the Shoulder Baby Holder). Both of the carriers mentioned will fit mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and babysitter with ease.

  • 3-6 Soft wash cloths

  • 1 hooded towel or soft cotton bath towel

  • 4-6 Receiving blankets. (Receiving blankets were a little boggling to us when we were pregnant with our first baby. "You'll use them for everything," my mom said. "Everything" for us included: spit up-clean up, post bath bundling, breast-milk absorption, baby wrapping, car-seat lining, changing table-covering, bed-piddle pad top layer, and sun shade-improvisation. Indeed, they were quite helpful.)

  • 1 small, warm blanket made of natural fibers. (You can make your own out of an couple of old soft sweaters!)

  • 1 bar of organic baby soap (we're partial to LuSa Organics Calendula Baby Soap since, well, we make it.) Soap is useful for occasional bottom cleaning after acidic or messy diaper changes rather than all-over-bathing. No shampoo, lotion, powered, etc is needed for a newborn! Really! In fact, less is better. Babies aren't dirty and their sensitive skin is stripped by excessive product and cleaner use. (Sure, I own a baby body care company. But seriously – less is better for babies. Go it slow. You'll have plenty of time to suds them up when they are big.)
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Nice to Have Additions

Most people will argue that this list is really a list of Must Have's as well, but in the interest of economy, you can get by with very little! Therefore we call these "nice to haves".

Yes, we had most (but not all) of these for both of our kids. We loved having them but could get by without them if we had to.

New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean
  • Car seat (a necessity for anyone planning on doing any car travel)

  • 1 swaddle blanket (Swaddling recreates a womb-like sensation for sensitive newborns. It is calming and comforting and helps overstimulated babies calm and soothe while you rock or nurse them to sleep in your loving arms). You can easily make your own for just a few bucks. 
  • Bed guard (this one is great for cosleeping safely)

  • Breast pump (simple is fine, we loved our manual Avent Isis)

  • Nursing pillow
  • Additional baby carrier (as baby grows larger a more structured carrier is so comfortable. We loved our Ergo, above and used it daily until age 2 1/2. We still used it weekly with our 3 to 4 year old!).

  • Sleep sack (babies don’t like covers, so a sleep sack of itchless wool keeps little bodies warm and sleeping soundly. Make your own if you are a sewer, knitter, or crocheter.)

  • White noise machine (to drown out house sounds and outside noise while baby sleeps)

  • Baby Monitor (so you can wander a bit further than outside of your sleeping baby's door)

  • Nosefrida (an easy to clean, safe "snot-sucker" as it were)

  • Thermometer

  • Baby nail clippers or nail scissors

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For Mama

One of the leading causes of postpartum depression is the feeling that you aren't taken care of. So get yourself (or your lady) ready!

Have these items stashed bedside for new Mama's early days with baby.

New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean

  • (BPA-free) Water bottle (we love our Klean Kanteens) or mason jar with a straw closure. (Partners: Keep it filled for her, or keep a glass quart jar close by for refills. Most mamas drink a pint of water at each nursing in the early weeks. That's a whole lot of refills each day. Keep on it.)

  • High-energy healthy snacks (Lara Bar, nuts and fruit, dried fruit, protein-rich healthy nibbles.) (Partners: restock this basket for her daily.) edited: I just posted a recipe for the best ever bedside snack for a nursing mama. Date balls. They store well and are a great labor snack as well, so make a few batches before baby arrives.

  • Baby-safe nipple cream

  • Phone number of local LLL leader or lactation consultant

  • Hot water bottle


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Diaper Bag

  • Roomy, comfortable shoulder bag or backpack
  • Small wet bag

  • Travel-sized organic diaper cream (I make cloth diaper safe LuSa Organics Booty Balm but use what you love.)

  • Ziplock bag or travel container of wipes

  • Changing pad or receiving blanket

  • Change of clothes for baby

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Diapering Needs

Diapering supplies below are broken down into three categories, depending on your approach (Cloth, Disposable, or Diaper-Free/Elimination Communication)

Both Elimination Communication (EC) and cloth categories will need the laundering supplies listed as well.

New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean

For Elimination Communication (EC) or Diaper Free Babies

  • Baby-sized potty (we used a Baby Bjorn little potty)
New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean

For Cloth Diapering

  • 20 cloth diapers (we love Canadian-made MotherEase)

  • 3 newborn size and 3 small breathable diaper covers or wraps

  • Baby Wipes (15) or high quality washcloths

  • LuSa Organics Baby Wipe Juice, homemade DIY wipe solution, or commercial wipes (but read those ingredients carefully! Most are sketchy at best and contain synthetic preservatives, fragrance oils, and other questionable ingredients.)


For Laundering Cloth Diapers (EC or Cloth methods)

  • Diaper pail or large wet bag

  • Unscented laundry soap

  • Tea tree essential oil

  • Vinegar

  • Baking soda

New Baby Checklist. What you really need for baby. | Clean

For Disposable Diapering

  • Two packs of disposable diapers, size Newborn

  • Paper towels and a sturdy container to hold homemade baby wipes

  • LuSa Organics Baby Wipe Juice, homemade DIY wipe solution, or commercial wipes (but read those ingredients carefully! Most are sketchy at best and contain synthetic preservatives, fragrance oils, and other questionable ingredients.)
  • Diaper pail or lidded trash can

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What's Missing?

What is not on our list may be as important as what is. There are no big furniture pieces or accessories. No expensive strollers, playpens, cribs, jumpers, or other doodads.

Why? Because all baby needs is your arms, mama’s milk, and love.

Really. That’s all.

I encourage parents to invest in a quality baby carrier ($100) and forgo an expensive stroller ($200). Your baby will thank you. Then take some of the money you saved and if you still want that stroller, tie on your baby, and scour rummage sales for a decent jogger stroller. You can often find them for under $25.00.


Originally posted in 2010.

One thought on “A “less-is-more” checklist for new parents

  1. Donna T. Parker says:

    Hi Rachel,
    Thanks for this helpful post for the parents of newly born babies. Here you recomended only ‘Mother ease’ cloth diaper. Yes Mother ease cloth diaper is best beside that, BumGenius, Alva baby and Thirsties Duo also good cloth diapers. Overall the post is very nice. best of your luck

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