Wondering what basic needs a newborn has? Check out these baby essentials for the first 3 months, a great shopping list for first time moms!
The last thing any newborn mom needs is to scramble for baby items after giving birth. As a first time mom, I wondered which ones are must haves that I should buy before the baby arrives so that I wouldn’t have to during maternity leave. Specifically, which ones I’d need for those first three months.
Because we’ve all seen lists of baby things to buy, but many of them the new baby won’t need until a few months down the line. Others are nice to have, and can even make a welcome gift on a baby registry. But which ones are the truly essential ones, especially during the early days?
And with so many baby items, figuring out what you need can feel overwhelming at times. Which ones are an absolute must, and which ones can be skipped (or purchased later)?
Table of Contents
Baby essentials for the first 3 months
If you’re still confused about what to get for your baby, rest assured, you’re not alone. I knew I needed to prepare for the baby, but I didn’t know how or where to even start.
After three kids, I can now share which items I found truly essential, and which ones I didn’t need until later (if at all). I was also frugal and wanted to limit our spending, so I had to be extra discerning about only getting items I’d actually need.
Take a look at these baby essentials for the first 3 months. I’ll share the items I did eventually get once my babies got older, and which ones I’d consider “nice to have” (but not essential).
Stroller and car seat
- Essential: If you’re driving from the hospital, you’ll need an infant car seat to bring the baby home. Many newborn car seats are designed to attach to a stroller so that you also have a way to push the baby around.
- Down the line: As the baby gets older, you’ll likely swap the newborn car seat for a larger one. I made this switch when my babies were around nine months old.
- Nice to have: A jogging stroller is a great option if you plan to take the little one on runs. And an “umbrella” stroller was useful for me when we took a trip with the twins and didn’t want to lug around their giant double stroller. And finally, consider hiring a car seat consultant who can teach you how to properly install your baby’s car seat.
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- Essential: You’ll need a place for baby to sleep, and a crib is the most versatile. He can sleep in it from day one and long past the newborn stage. A crib that converts to a toddler bed extends its life even further. You’ll also need a crib mattress and two fitted sheets.
- Nice to have: Some babies sleep better in smaller spaces, so a bassinet can be nice to have (though baby will likely outgrow it within months). Similarly, a portable crib can be useful if he needs to nap in other people’s homes or if you’re going on vacation.
Changing table, portable pad, and diaper pail
- Essential: Many parents write off a changing table as unnecessary, but I found it essential. Having to bend down over a bed or crouch on the floor can make your back ache (trust me, I know!). Get a changing table, a changing pad, and two pad covers. Similarly, get a portable pad for diaper changes when you’re out and about (many diaper bags already come with one).
- Down the line: If you exclusively breastfeed, baby’s soiled diapers won’t smell, so you can use any trash can. But once he starts eating solids, you’ll need a diaper pail that can contain the smell. If you formula feed or supplement, you’ll need the diaper pail from day one.
- Nice to have: If you have extra portable pads, place them in different areas around the house. That way, if you need to do a quick diaper change and you’re in the living room, you won’t have to go all the way to the baby’s room to do so.
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- Essential: At this stage of bathing, you’ll need a newborn bathtub, one you can place on a flat surface instead of in the tub. A newborn bathtub allows you to cradle baby in one arm while bathing him with the other. It also comes with a net that holds him so that his umbilical cord (which you want to keep dry until it falls off) isn’t submerged. Later, when baby can sit up, you can use the same tub, but likely the other side, and still bathe him comfortable.
- Down the line: At some point, he’ll outgrow the newborn bathtub, so you’ll need a toddler one that you place in the actual tub.
- Essential: I’m a fan of using a baby wrap, especially during the first 3 months. This is the time when your baby likes to be held to sleep, so having her in a wrap allows you to free up your arms as well.
- Nice to have: Once she outgrows the baby wrap, you might want to get a baby carrier as well so that you can still “carry” her around without using your arms.
- Essential: Swings allow you to put baby somewhere safe and its motion can help him sleep longer.
Diapers, wipes, and cream
- Essential: Your baby will go through plenty of diapers, but you don’t need a lot in all the sizes yet. Start with newborn or size 1, especially since you won’t know exactly how much she’ll weigh at birth. You’ll also need baby wipes, but don’t buy these in bulk yet, either—at least until you know she’s not sensitive to a particular brand. And lastly, diaper rash cream can help prevent severe rashes and help heal those that still sneak their way in.
- Nice to have: In hindsight, I wish I had invested in cloth diapers, since in the long run, they would’ve been less expensive (not to mention eco-friendly).
- Essential: Onesies will be your baby’s basic outfit, and you can add layers with one-piece zipper pajamas, pants, shorts, and socks.
- Nice to have: Cute outfits can mark special occasions, like matching sweaters and corduroys, hats, and dresses. Keep these to a minimum though, as they’re not practical for everyday use.
- Essential: You’ll need a bag to carry baby’s spare clothes, diapers, wipes, milks, and other miscellaneous items. While a “regular” bag can work, a diaper bag usually comes with insulation for milk as well as a portable changing pad. I found a backpack type of diaper bag to be easier to carry.
- Essential: You’ll likely need two types of blankets—thick and thin ones. You can place thick blankets on the ground for tummy time, or hold the baby in your arms. A thin muslin blanket can be used a burp cloth, a cover for the car seat, or even a swaddle.
- Nice to have: Babies shouldn’t sleep with blankets, so sleep sacks are a great alternative to keeping baby warm.
- Down the line: Your baby won’t need an actual blanket to sleep with until much later, when he’s at least a year old.
- Essential: At bare minimum, use a thin blanket to swaddle baby. Be warned though that these can come off easily (and aren’t the easiest to re-do in the middle of the night!).
- Nice to have: Many swaddles come pre-made so that all you have to do is use Velcro or a zipper to get one on and off baby.
White noise and darkening curtains
- Essential: Having some type of white noise and darkening curtains can help extend the baby’s sleep. While you can buy a white noise machine, you can also mimic the same effect with a fan, heater, or even an audio app.
- Essential: For breastfeeding moms, a breast pump can be useful from day one. Pumping between feedings can increase your milk supply. You can also pump one breast while nursing on the other (before switching sides the next time). And if you return to work, pumping allows you to provide expressed milk. A nursing pillow is also a must. I tried getting away with using regular pillows, but those just don’t cut it the way a nursing pillow does.
- Nice to have: Lanolin cream can prevent and heal your nipples from cracks and blisters. But if you don’t have any, breast milk can also do the same.
Nursing bra and tops
- Essential: Come equipped with several nursing bras and tops if you plan to breastfeed. Regular bras and camisoles just aren’t a good substitute. A pumping bra will also make pumping much easier. I wish I had one from the beginning instead of thinking I could get away without one.
- Nice to have: Breast shells can protect from chafing against your clothes.
- Essential: Nail clippers will keep baby’s nails clipped and smooth, while a thermometer is handy should he get sick and have a fever. A nose suction will help clear his nose should he get stuffy, and you can bathe him with a shampoo and body wash gentle enough for babies.
- Nice to have: His skin might be sensitive to regular laundry detergent, so a baby detergent is a great alternative. Another option is an eco-friendly detergent, especially since most don’t include harsh chemicals.
Now that you have an idea of baby essentials for the first 3 months, let’s summarize the items below. I include three lists: essentials, nice to have, and down the line. I’m also including items I haven’t mentioned because they’re not essential, but are nice to have or come in handy down the line.
- Car seat and stroller
- Crib, mattress, and sheets
- Changing table, pad, and sheets
- Newborn bathtub
- Shampoo and body wash
- Baby wrap
- Diapers and wipes
- Diaper cream
- Diaper bag
- Thick and thin blankets
- White noise and darkening curtains
- Breast pump
- Nursing pillow
- Nursing bras and tops
- Pumping bra
- Nail clippers
- Nose suction
Nice to have
- Glider or rocker
- Bouncy seat (great for feeding solids or for placing them somewhere portable yet safe)
- Jogging or umbrella stroller
- Portable crib
- Portable changing pad
- Cloth diapers
- Sleep sack
- Pre-made swaddle
- Nipple cream
- Breast shells
- Baby detergent
Down the line
- Utensils, plates, and bowls for solids
- Food storage for homemade baby food
- High chair for feeding solids
- Larger car seat
- Diaper pail
- Toddler bathtub
- Toddler blanket
Get more tips:
- The Ultimate Checklist Before Baby Is Born
- Top 10 Things Baby Needs
- What to Stock Up on Before Baby Arrives
- How Many Clothes to Buy Before Baby Is Born
Free printables: Plan ahead for your monthly expenses once the baby comes! Join my newsletter and grab your Printable Monthly Expenses Worksheet! Estimate recurring expenses and typical costs of raising a baby. Now you can have a better sense of how much to expect to spend. Get it below—at no cost to you: