Preparing for Baby: The Essentials

It’s no secret preparing for a baby can be an overwhelming task, especially for first-time moms. Everyone has an opinion and  a list of must-haves and then you walk into the baby section of Target or, worse, Babies R Us and are completely overwhelmed.

What do you really need? Here’s my 2 cents from a {almost} 3rd-time mom.

For the Baby

1. Swaddlers – We’ve loved muslin swaddlers with our kids. They’re soft, lightweight, and breathable, so you don’t have to worry about baby overheating.

2. Onesies

3. Burp Cloths

4. Simple, non-fussy clothes for those first few months. Think sleepers and all-in-one outfits. Avoid buttons, snaps, and zippers on the back…they’re awkward to put on a baby that can’t hold their head up or sit on their own.

5. Sling – These can be such a lifesaver when the baby just wants to be held and you need two hands. We have a Baby K’tan and love it. It’s similar to a moby wrap, but is pre-looped and there are 7 different wrap positions you can do.

6. Diapers, Wipes, & a Wet Bag – We’ve done a combination of cloth and disposable diapers over the years. Usually, disposable diapers for nights and traveling and cloth diapers for the day.

We’ve used Bum Genius all-in-one diapers, and since they can be adjusted to three different sizes we’ve been able to use them with both our boys from about 3 months until they are potty trained. Go with the snaps, instead of velcro closures, because our velcro has become very worn even with air drying to the point some diapers won’t stay closed.

7. First Aid kit – Infant first aid kits usually come with child nail scissors/clippers, nasal aspirator, medicine dropper, a baby toothbrush, and hairbrush. A few items you might want to consider keeping in your medicine cabinet for when baby’s sick are a vapor rub, saline solution, natural teething drops, and infant pain reliever. Remember to consult your pediatrician before using.

8. Blankets

9. Pacifier – If you choose to use one, we’ve liked the Soothie. Some babies just don’t like pacifiers. Joey wouldn’t take one even when I was desperate for him to and Otto couldn’t go to bed without one (he’s off it now).

10. Teething Necklace – We started using an amber teething necklace for Otto and I felt it helped a lot for his day-to-day teething discomfort. Now if he was cutting 2-3 teeth at the same time, it didn’t help as much.

I’ve had friends ask, What if the necklace breaks? The necklace we choose is knotted between each bead, so if it did break not all the beads would fall off. Can the child take it off or put their hand under it? No, most amber necklaces I’ve seen are more of a choker style. The chain length is kept short so the child can’t take it off themselves

For the Home

Bassinet or Co-Sleeper 

Floor Bed

We’ve used a floor bed since Joey was about 6 months old and Otto transitioned to a floor bed after the bassinet. We originally started with a crib mattress on the floor and have now moved to a shorter, full-sized mattress (from Ikea). Once this baby is too big for the bassinet, we’ll do the same.

The reason behind having a floor bed is so that the child can see the whole room unhindered. On the floor the child can see “the lay of the land,” so to speak, so that even before they are mobile they have a general orientation of the room and aren’t just seeing it from being held in the air. As they grow and become more mobile they can climb in and out of bed. The benefit of this is that when they are tired they can put themselves to bed! (You can read more about a Montessori child’s bedroom environment here.)

A Few Sets of Sheets & a Mattress Cover


Changing Pad & Cover


We’ve had a mirror with both boys and it’s definitely one of their favorite things as infants. It allows them to see and interact with the room around them, as well as study their own reflection and movements.

How We Montessori has a great post on the Wall Mirror. Michael Olaf carries an unframed acrylic, plexiglass mirror. We were able to find the same thing much cheaper, though I can’t remember the company.

High Chair

We love this high chair, because it allows the baby to be at the table with the rest of the family and grows with the child. There’s an attachment for babies, so they don’t slid to the side.

Carseat & Stroller

A carseat and stroller combo just makes traveling, running errands, and getting outside so much easier. We now have a double stroller and the baby carrier fits inside, but double strollers–whew!–so much harder to steer.

For Nursing

1. Nipple Cream – Nursing’s hard work and can make you pretty sore those first few weeks (or months). Mother’s Love is the best nipple cream I’ve come by. It’s all natural and, unlike lanolin, doesn’t end up drying out your nipples.

2. Nursing Cover – I think these are one of the best inventions ever. Seriously. I can’t imagine going back to “the old way” of tucking a blanket behind your shoulder. This makes nursing in public so much easier and relaxing. I can see my baby and what’s going on without sweating him out under a blanket.

3. Nursing Bras – I have yet to find a nursing bra I absolutely love. I’ve tried the cheap brands (Target), the expensive brands (Elle Macpherson), a boutique brand, and the Medela brand. Nothing has worked or fit perfect for me. I’d suggest trying on a few brands, getting sized for a bra AFTER your milk has come in, and then seeing what works. But remember, just because you spend a lot of money on a nursing bra doesn’t guarantee it’ll be the best one for you.

4. Nursing Tank Tops – I’d suggest buying 2-3 tank tops in basic colors. This what I usually wear under most of my clothes during nursing season.

Target has a decent selection with your basic gray, white, nude, and black. I’ve also seen them in purple and blue with lace at the top. Recently, I replaced one of mine and happy to see they’ve also made them longer than they were with my first baby.

5. 2-3 Nursing Tops – These can be pretty pricey, so choose something that’s easily versatile. Nursing tops make nursing in public a little more natural and less of a struggle. Consider adding a nursing dress too. Milk Nursingwear has a few great options.

6. Mother’s Milk tea – Helps with milk production and you can even start to drink it before your baby’s born.

7. A Lactation Consultant or La Leche League – Nursing can be hard for some women, not all of us have a smooth transition. I was blessed to have a friend who was a great lactation consultant and offered her services for free to the women at our church. Without her help, I would have been in a lot of pain and probably would have given up on nursing.

Most maternity nurses are trained as lactation consultants these days, so don’t be shy about asking for assistance. Most hospitals or birth centers have either a lactation consultant on staff or a list of referrals that you can use once at home.

For Momma

1. Loose Clothing for Postpartum

2. Postpartum Care Kit

Passionate Homemaking has a great post on making your own natural postpartum care kit. Some women also have their placenta encapsulated, which is believed to give the mother plenty of vitamins and help curb postpartum depression. I know it sounds strange and after my first two births I didn’t want anything to do with the idea, but after experiencing PPD to varying degrees with both and hearing friends positive experiences, I’ve decided to try it this time around.

3.  Diaper Bag

4. Mother Letters – For when you feel like you’re doing it all wrong or just need encouragement for the hard days, this is a great book of a compilation of letters from moms of all ages and stages to other moms.

What would you add to the list?

Join in the conversation over on Facebook.

*This post contains affiliate links.

7 comments… add one

  • Annie October 24, 2012, 5:21 pm

    I keep google-ing a lot of registry guides and it seems to be a lot of useless stuff. This list is awesome and I am curious what your thoughts are on hammocks (i.e. the Special Delivery one) and stroller brands. We are thinking of forgoing the whole infant car seat and just getting an all-in-one and then using a bassinet feature in the stroller. I’m personally drooling over the Bugaboo Donkey one but that is like way over my budget. Anyhow, thanks again.

  • Erin October 28, 2012, 12:36 am

    Awesome post! 🙂 I am about to deliver my second child, so I can definitely say I like what is on here. Especially the floor bed. My bed has been on the floor for almost a year now as my 16 month old sleeps with us, and it will probably stay that way until I finally get her into her own bed. Not sure yet if that will be on the floor.. you gave me something to think about! Anyway, I didn’t see Motherhood Maternity as a place you looked into in your list of nursing bras, so was hoping to give you a suggestion!
    When I had my first last year, this was my absolute favorite bra!! I put on a lottt of weight with that pregnancy and my boobs grew pretty huge ha, but unfortunately they only make it in the bigger sizes and I can’t wear the same one this time around, so I’m wearing this one now-

    Hope you find one that works better for you if you should ever need one again!

  • Colley November 12, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Great list! I’m prepping for my third, so I thought this was a wonderful way to double-check to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.

    If Annie is still checking back, we used a hammock (the hushamok, specifically). We loved it with out first baby, but our second wasn’t into it as much. She ended up spending most of her nights in her fully-reclined swing. However, the hammock was much easier and I think better than the swing, my little girl just didn’t love it. I now have both the hammock and the swing set up as we wait for the new baby. It will be interesting to see what she likes!

    Also, although you would certainly save money dropping the infant car seat, it does help to be able to pop a napping baby out without waking him or her. Also, both of my children hated the bassinet for the stroller, so we ended up using the infant carseat in the stroller until they were ready for the regular seat. So the bassinet ended up just being a waste of money for us with both kids. We have the Maxi-Cosi / Quinny system. We also use the Maxi-Cosi convertible car seat (and just order the Maxi-Cosi booster for my oldest). Can you tell we really like this brand? They’ve held up really well. We’re looking forward to using the same infant seat and stroller with our third as we did with our first. Just a thought, if some of these items are available readily near you, you might consider spending the minimum and then going back for things if you decide you really need them after baby comes.

    Good luck!

  • Kelly May 8, 2014, 4:52 am

    Such an informative and well written post! Well, it is quite sad that I saw it only now after so much time and energy wasted while trying to figure out all of this parenthood stuff. It depends on personal experience, but it was really quite a challenge during a teething period. We have consulted many friends and relatives till we have received a great advice about magic powers of amber. I was really skeptical at first, but decided to give a shot anyways and I’m really happy about it. We have chosen our necklace from despite the fact that we have lost a first one, but we bought a second one from there too and since then our life became much calmer, if you experience such issues, I definitely recommend it.

  • Jared May 26, 2015, 5:17 pm

    What size mirror would you recommend?

    • Jessica June 4, 2015, 6:46 am

      Hmm…I’d have to say our mirror is probably 2′ x 4′. I felt that was a good size for our rooms.

  • Stephanie Soon December 28, 2015, 1:31 pm

    Our first is due tomorrow and I am relieved to read your list and see we have pretty much everything our family will need. Thanks for the post!

Leave a Comment

//Track outbounds