The Practical List of Newborn Needs

Mom looking at newborn in hospital asking what now

Having a baby, especially as a first-time mom, is exciting but it can also be incredibly overwhelming. It’s especially hard to pick through what it is you need and don’t with every baby product out there claiming they are a “must-have”. How do you know what items you really need? What are the actual must-haves for a newborn?

Getting down to the basics happened fairly easily for me with my newborns, why? Well, frankly, I was poor. I just didn’t have the means to get much. Being a first-time mother, this concerned me, bit I quickly realized that I really didn’t need as much as people were telling me I did. Extras can be nice but they aren’t necessary and often they just get in the way or become something you need to take time to get rid of later. With my first child we lived in a small one-bedroom apartment right smack in the middle of downtown Toronto. We didn’t have the space for us, let alone any extra space. So, even if we had the money to go all out, we wouldn’t have had any place to put it all.

What exactly does a newborn baby need? I suppose for much of the question the answer would be, “well, how do you intend to parent?” You will also find you don’t actually need as much as you think you so. Newborns don’t do all that much and as long as the basics are covered they are good. Babies can be quite simple even if they don’t feel like it, a lot of the time all they really want is your comfort. The world is big, scary, and totally new to them.

Whether you’re on a budget, looking to be minimalistic, or just realistic here is a practical list of newborn needs:

Diapers and wipes

This is a give-in. You need to cover your baby’s behind whether in disposable (think Huggies, Pampers, etc.) or reusable (washable) diapers. The choice is yours! They both have their pros and cons. We chose disposable because cloth was too expensive of an initial investment (although cheaper in the long run) and we live in a building with common washers and dryers. If I had lived in a house with my own appliances, I would have used cloth diapers. I know a few parents that do, and they love to cloth diaper. As a bonus, it can be better for the environment as well depending on how you wash and dry them, in theory when it comes to their carbon footprint. According to a study done by Environment Agency, the amount of carbon dioxide produced by disposable diapers in the span of 2.5 years would be less than the carbon output of washing and drying reusable diapers. Diaper cream is also something to keep handy, there are natural alternatives to this as well if you are interested. I have used breast milk when medicated creams aren’t necessary, but the medicated creams are useful to have around in case they are needed.

Laundry detergent

I know this may seem like a weird thing to have on the list but the world is much different in your womb. Babies have sensitive skin. They aren’t used to the feel of fabric, rough, itchy, and cold. They don’t understand things like clothing tags, what they do know is that none of that feels good. So, to minimize their discomfort, and the chance of having a reaction, being careful about the detergent and dryer sheets you use is a good idea. You do not need to go out and buy specially made for babies’ detergent. It is very pricey and you have a cheaper alternative! You can purchase dye and scent-free detergent (something that is Free and Clear) and it does the same thing.

Gentle baby soap and soft face cloths

These are on the list for the same reason you want to get free and clear detergent, baby’s skin is sensitive! Paying attention to what you’re putting in and on your baby is often a good idea. You may be able to spot patterns that indicate they sensitive to something, they’re uncomfortable, in pain, or having a reaction. Getting to know your new family member can be tricky and this can make it a little easier.

Various illustrations of mom breastfeeding

A way to feed your (always) hungry little one

This is one many mothers stress about; how am I going to feed my baby? The choice may be one of debate for you or one you feel strongly about so the choice is easy. Whatever you decide, having a fed and healthy baby is the goal so what you’ll need will depend on whether you are breastfeeding, formula feeding, or doing a combination of the two. For those of you planning on breastfeeding you may be wondering what could you possibly need? I would suggest a breast pump, it can be a lifesaver, as well as some milk storage bags. If you’re having some trouble with things like latching something like a nipple shield can come in handy but that’s generally something you would buy once you knew for sure that was the issue. It would be a good idea to have some lactation consultant contact information on hand. The hospital I go to happens to have a breastfeeding clinic in it. So, if there are any issues, I can go to that. Here it is something that is covered by our medical coverage but in other places, this may work differently. Also, some bottles in case someone else needs to feed baby. Nursing pads were handy for me as well, I preferred the washable ones over the disposable ones because they were thinner and more comfortable. Some nipple cream may come in handy if they get sore and cracked and some people like to have a nursing pillow, I was going to make my own and then had one given to me. Honestly, I tried to use it and it just got in the way, I ended up using a normal pillow because that worked for us. If you plan on formula feeding consult with your baby’s doctor about what kind is appropriate and have that on hand along with some bottles and I got great use out of a bottle scrubber.

Be a baby wearer

Do it! Just kidding, you do not have to, but it is a wonderful way to have both hands free and still have baby close to you. They crave closeness and comfort; your heartbeat was all they knew for the longest time. Skin to skin and closeness encourages a baby’s growth and comforts them. It is lovely and quite practical. I suggest starting off with a baby-wearing group that has a library for you to try out. Not every baby loves every carrier, and you will not either. I bought one while pregnant and my first son absolutely hated it, screamed anytime I put it near him. During an outing my friend let me try hers and my son and I were in love. I ended up having to search for one online because that particular style had been discontinued. We found one and it became a staple for us. My son would even ask to be worn. It even got used with my second son and he loved it as well. I found a lot of use for it while travelling on public transportation especially at the time because most of our subway stations weren’t accessible. It was also nice to use just go for a walk, on an outing, or to get stuff done around the house. Healthline states some of the benefits of babywearing include promotion of health, assists in breastfeeding, enhances connection and reduces crying. The Government of Canada has released safe baby-wearing tips to ensure you and your baby are safe and secure while wearing so you can get the benefits from it, some tips include making sure baby is close enough to kiss but certainly ensure you’ve done your research and know your product.

Somewhere for baby to sleep

They may not want to leave your arms, but they will have to. It is essential babies have a safe and secure place to sleep. With my first son, we used a pack n play with a newborn insert then moved to a crib when we were able to get one shortly after he was born. With my second son, we had a crib and got a new mattress, but we also had a pack n play for somewhere safe to put him down or for frequent naps outside of the room. The Government of Canada has a list to help you learn more about safe sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Weather-appropriate clothing and Sleepers

This one is self-explanatory. I do suggest you invest in full sleepers with zippers instead of snaps. The buttons are difficult to do, especially when baby gets older and wigglier. The sleepers are easy and comfortable for them. They also do not need extras like socks when they are wearing them. My son always hated socks. I still cannot keep them on him. Also, hats. How much you need of each item of clothing is up to you. You really don’t need all that much though. I would suggest having a little over a week’s worth of each item. Clothes don’t have to be anything expensive, in fact, second hand was always a lifesaver for us. Your new little bundle is going to mess up these nice new clothes in all kinds of fun ways.

Stroller and Car seat

Again pretty self-explanatory. I would also suggest that you have a car seat canopy as well as a cover for the stroller to keep the wind, rain, and snow away from the little one. Be sure to get a stroller that fits well in your life. With my first son we started off with a big stroller that has big tires with a tread (because we live in Canada and the snow is an issue). I’m pretty sure it’s a jogging stroller and while perfect for my needs usually because I didn’t drive at the time. It would not fit in a car trunk properly without fighting to take the wheels apart every time you needed to bring it somewhere and we had a lot of appointments right after my son was born. My grandma, who was often the one bringing us to appointments, ended up getting us a Snap-N-Go by Baby Trend. It is basically a small base with a tiny basket and wheels that you strap the infant seat into. It was a lifesaver. It was only practical until he could not use that car seat anymore but we got so much use out of it. Moral of the story is, get something that works for you. Both strollers were perfect for us for their intended purposes. The big jogging stroller is what I used daily and if I was without a car. The other stroller was one I used when I needed a smaller one and my big one was impractical.

Grooming and health supplies

You don’t need to stock up on too much here but it is good to have some things around. There are certain things you’ll find you do need for your baby such as a brush and nail clippers. It is also a good idea to have a thermometer in case you suspect a fever. Newborns that develop fevers need to be checked out by a professional so absolutely consult with your healthcare provider if you think something is up.

Diaper bag

You are a Mom now; look the part. Babies need their stuff to be portable, you need something to carry it all in. You do not have to use something big or even a conventional diaper bag. I used a small one that Nestle sent me for a while with my first, but I have also used my big TNA gym bag purse thing, as well as a backpack. I found the backpack useful when I am going to be out for a while and while wearing my son. With my second I used all kinds of bags from bags labelled as diaper bags to not. I’m sure I even used a reusable shopping bag a few times in a pinch, As long as you have something that fits the stuff you need, you’re good. If you are formula feeding it is also good to have a small cooler that fits in the bag or a lunch bag with ice packs to keep open, premade liquid formula cool after opened.

Receiving blankets

They are super useful. I used them to swaddle my son as well as for burp cloths and whatever else I could think of. Really, they were great. They are nice and thin and soft, perfect for baby. My son often played with one in his car seat while we were out because I would always have one with us.


No matter what you have for your new baby, you are going to want to document those tiny little toes! They grow entirely too fast, try to enjoy every second of it that you can!

This seems like an exhaustive list but babies need a lot of stuff and they are not cheap. I paired this down as best I could to give new parents a starting list of things I found essential. Two things I did not mention in there because I thought they would be more optional for some people are:

A swing

Babies tend to love these things and sometimes you need a minute without them in your hands. The first time I was able to do anything after my oldest son was born was because of the swing. We had a lot of trouble with feeding and my son spent the majority of the first month or so of his life attached to me to breastfeed. He was certainly a baby that needed to always be comforted and held. Honestly, I couldn’t even feed myself. My partner at the time would come home from work, make dinner, and literally feed it to me.  The swing became a lifesaver, a few moments of reprieve when I needed it to eat or fold a few laundry items. 


One great thing you can do with and for your newborn is to talk to and read to them. It was usually just my oldest son and I alone when he was a baby so, I naturally narrated everything we were doing, why, just talked to him. It was a great way to bond, help him learn, and get us into a habit of talking and reading. The Cleveland Clinic agrees that reading to your baby is a wonderful bonding and learning opportunity among other things. The truth is your baby thinks the world of you, they just want you. You’re their safe space, their comfort, their food, their warmth, and all they’ve ever known is you and your protection. Reading to your cute tiny human is something they love even as newborns because it’s something you’re doing with them because they can listen to your voice which is something they’ve gotten to know and find comfort in.

I hope this was helpful! I want to hear what your list of necessities for a new baby are down below & while you’re at it sign up for our emailing list, so you never miss awesome articles like this!

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    • 4
      Apparently a Mom

      I totally get what you mean but I think being so young I grieve the freedom I had more than perhaps someone a bit older would. Either way i wouldn’t change it for the world. I do kind of miss those new born days though! So sweet, so quiet, no moving around. I feel like I run a marathon a day now 😛 Your life certainly becomes more full in every way once they are here; sure more work and harder work to boot but more love, joy, and appreciation.

  1. 5

    I have been looking for people who would like to read what I write on babycare. Having visited young families for 30+ years I have collected something on the different subjects having to do with understanding babies. Please have a look if you have time!

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