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How much stuff do you really need for a baby? And what are real ‘baby essentials’ anyway?
Those were the questions a colleague asked me the other day. To be fair, those are some pretty big questions.
If you believe the stores and magazines – everything is a baby essential. But when we found out we were pregnant with Aurelio, we were living in a typical 750 square foot, 2 up-2 down terrace house in Cambridge. There was barely much room for us let alone an extra person and all their gear. So I dived into embracing minimalism + did a bucket load of research.
And, honestly, after having two kids and really considering what we’ve used and loved, the list of what we really needed, those true baby essentials, is not as long and you’d think.
In this post I want to share with you all the true minimalist baby essentials. It’s for anyone who’s about to have a baby or has one already and is focusing on babies from 0 – 6 months.
My aim isn’t to make you feel bad for needing stuff, it’s to help you cut through the hype and to review what we’ve found to be most useful. And it’s legitimately what we use ourselves.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to it!
Baby essentials for minimalists
1. a pram/stroller
I fricken LOVE our babyzen yoyo*. It’s literally one of the smallest strollers you can get on the market. That makes it perfect for travelling and our tiny European streets (the streets around Cambridge seem to be particularly narrow!)
We bought ours when Aurelio was born. Now you see more of them around, but when we first had it about 2 people a day would stop ask me where I got it. It’s that good.
It’s very lightweight, so not great on cobblestones and it’s small, so if you have a big baby (like Viggo’s turning out to be!) then you may not be able to use it in the 0 – 6 month configuration for long. But it converts into a stroller. And that lasts forever – we used ours with Aurelio until well past his 2nd birthday.
Another plus is that it folds up really small so you can take it on planes as carry on. We also like to fold it away at night and hide it the cupboard under the stairs. Instantly clearing up our living space!
I’ve heard some people say they’ll wing it without a pram/stroller, and I think that’s cool. I think the idea of trying to go with less stuff is definitely a great idea. At the same time it’s so handy to be able to nip to the shops and use the stroller to carry our weekly shop back. We also use it to put him down for naps instead of a bassinet or moses basket. So handy in case we want to pop out on an impromptu adventure.
This may be less ideal for people who drive more than we do (we’re in walking distance of almost everything we need), but a friend used our Babyzen with the new car seat addition and thought it was magic.
We have the blue version, but if I could buy it again I would totally go for one of the new colours – like this sage green one* #bestlookingbabyever
2. a baby carrier (or two)
First of all I’d say to look into seeing if there’s a sling library in your area. At sling libraries you can try on different slings to see what works best for you. Saves you the trouble of buying one and finding out it doesn’t work for you! Added bonus – there’s usually someone on hand to help you understand how to get the fit right so you and your baby are at maximum comfort.
We were given a moby wrap at Aurelio’s baby shower and I love how soft it is – great for wearing around the house. I still use it with Viggo at 5 1/2 months when he’s teething and feeling sorry for himself. He gets the benefits of having a cuddle with mamma, but I can get on and do things. I tend not to use it for long journeys though as I find I need to retie it quite often.
For longer journeys we have an ergobaby sling* which we used with Aurelio till he was 1 1/2. It’s great for travelling and easy enough to put on that I used it while travelling solo without any problems (and now Aurelio is old enough he helps do up the buckle at the back! 😁). We had so many people recommend it to us we didn’t bother trying before we bought.
3. a crib
I know a lot of people co-sleep (where baby sleep in your bed with you). There’s obviously lots of benefits to it – baby’s close to you for feeding, baby feels more relaxed because they can feel you near. But I just can’t sleep with a baby in the bed – I worry I’m going to squish them!
So a cot that sits flush with the bed is a good alternative. You can still see baby and baby can see you, plus night feeding is super easy. Buttttt bubba has their own space outside your bed.
For both Aurelio and Viggo we used the bed nest and it worked great. We even packed it up into it’s carry case a few times when we were away from home and travelling. I’ve seen a lot of similar cots available now – like the Chicco next to me crib.
Then when the boys outgrew that we got a simple cot from IKEA. It’s not very compact (so maybe not super great for the smallest of homes), but it’s solid and converts into a sort of toddler day bed. We used it with Aurelio till he was 2 1/2.
- bed nest or Chicco next to me crib
- IKEA gulliver cot
4. a changing mat
We opted out of having a changing table. We didn’t really have the space for it. Then once I realised how easy it is to change on the floor or on a bed I never really looked back.
I also chose not to have a specific changing bag. I couldn’t really see the point of having a bag that only has one purpose. Plus I wasn’t that into any of the styles available.
With Aurelio I bought this skip hop travel changing mat* and used it at home as well as when we were out. It clips onto the pram/stroller or fits in whatever biggish bag/rucksack I choose to take out for the day. I used this all the way through Aurelio’s nappy/diaper wearing days so it lasted for ages.
I’m using the same for Viggo, but actually find I just use the base mat and leave the extra stuff at home. I prefer to put Viggo’s diapers and wipes in a little zip up pouch I made a few years back. So really you could just get by with a waterproof changing mat.
5. some XL muslins
Getting some XL muslins is a game changer. I was given some iswaddles and they are Ah-mazing. I was given a pack of three when Viggo was born and I wish I’d known about them earlier. They’re 120 cm x 120 cm so pretty darn super sized. Sure a muslin is a muslin, but these XL beauties have been so multi purpose it’s insane.
They’ve served as a play mat, a swaddle (up to when Viggo was 4 months old), a blanket, a changing mat, an impromptu jacket/cover, a makeshift lovey (just tie it in a big knot and you have a head). Oh and a muslin for mopping down baby goo.
I’d have to say that after the babyzen this has to be my number one favourite baby essentials.
6. a high chair
Sure a baby doesn’t really need a highchair, not until they’re weaning around 5 – 6 months. But it was really important to us for our babies to be able to join us at the table for family time like morning coffee. It made us feel like we were inviting them to join us as a family.
We invested in a stokke tripp trapp chair* and both Aurelio and Viggo have one. They’re not cheap, but we like the look of them and know we’ll get years of use out of them. My sister in law still uses hers even though her youngest is already 10. Plus you can take the sting out of the cost by buying one second hand.
The beauty of the tripp trapp is that it comes with a newborn insert that you can basically use from day 1. We used the newborn insert for both boys. I’ll be honest, they both tolerated it well enough, but I wouldn’t say they were huge fans. Still, it kept them happy for 15 minutes and that’s a win with any newborn, right?
Recently a friend gave us an inglesina table seat which basically clamps on to any table. It’s been great and Viggo loves sitting in it. It definitely has a smaller footprint then the tripp trapp chair. I also like that it’s super portable so we can take it with us when we visit friends and when we travel. I could see a family being able to get by with just this and then maybe a booster seat later when a child grows out of the table seat.
Another cool option I’ve seen (but, full disclaimer, not used myself) is the chicco baby hug 4 in 1. It’s a cot that also converts into a highchair that you can use up to age 3. If I’d known about it when Viggo was born I would have been really tempted to try it. I like things that multitask!
6. a few toys
When Aurelio was a baby I was super keen to keep stuff to a minimum. I barely had any baby toys for him. He’s a baby, what can he need right? And to be honest he was fine, but it meant I had to amuse him a lot more.
With Viggo I did a bit more research. I found the Montessori approach and it inspired me to settled on collecting a few multi-purpose toys that would stimulate him (aka keep him amused without needing me there next to him) without overwhelming him. They’re simple but pack in maximum amusement. These are the best of the best:
- an acrylic mirror – so he can see himself and because it’s acrylic it won’t break. I bought this one from IKEA and it works a treat. Cheap and cheerful.
- a wooden baby gym – we use it to hang toys. When he’s older we’ll turn it into a small tent. We use this Jabadabado baby gym and really like it – it’s a great height for Viggo.
- black and white images – I made some by printing out these (free) images and glueing them onto card so they were a bit robust. You could draw your own of course. Or get others to help – Aurelio really loved making patterns for Viggo with white paper and black markers.
- a crinkly baby book – we have a few fabric based black and white images, but this one is Viggo’s favourite
- a busy toy – I like this one with its gentle colours and soft rattle, but Viggo prefers this colour crazy beast. Go figure. 🙂
- interlocking rings – these are so multi purpose I love them. They clip things onto the gym/our babyzen, make great impromptu rattles, are perfect for teething and Viggo loves to pull at them. We were given a multicoloured set by friends, but I love the colours of these ones.
To be honest that’s been it in terms of what we would class as baby essentials. There are maybe a few other things that we’ve used that have been nice to have – a feeding pillow that can double as a toy when the boys are older, a soft baby seat for the sink. But I wouldn’t call these our true, core baby essentials, and if I were doing it again I probably just wouldn’t bother with them.
I know it still looks like a long list, but it feels like the right amount for us. For now. And let me say, that just because this is our list of baby essentials doesn’t mean it has to be your list of baby essentials. You may want/need more or less. And that is cool. I guess this is just my invitation to you to ditch the hype and really consider what you will need.
Baby essentials for minimalists: 3 ways to curb the clutter
Finding it hard to really hone in on what you’ll need? I’ve been there my friend. All I know is that when I started feeling overwhelmed with what baby things we needed, these 3 things helped me stick to my minimalist guns (and avoid running to the shops to panic buy a diaper bin).
1. You definitely don’t to have everything before baby comes. Meet your baby. See what they need. What you need. In this world of 24 hour shops and Amazon Prime, there’s nothing you can’t get within a few days.
2. Borrow. Families help other families. It’s a fact that when we had the boys so many people offered to lend us their things – car seats, bouncers, baby gyms. You can bet we took advantage of that.
And even if you don’t have a lot of friends or family knocking down your door to give you their baby stuff, there are an increasing number of community groups like toy libraries where you can borrow or rent things.
3. Invest in the things that will help give you the quality of life you want. We invested in our stroller because we wanted something we could fold up and put away. We didn’t want to be tripping over baby things constantly. I’m also a big fan of multipurpose things like our stroller (yup, I do love our stroller), our multipurpose rings, and our XL muslins.
And heck, I’m not perfect. When I see a sweet Instagram picture with a mama showcasing some new toy/gadget, I want it too. It’s natural, I’m human. But when I get to feeling like we need more gear, I find this reflection super useful.
You can live life with less stuff and still give your baby everything it could ever want. It’s just about working out what you really need
So that’s my list.
But now I want to hear from you. What essentials are you looking at / did you find invaluable? What things did people tell you you simply had to have that sat there unused gathering dust? And would you find it helpful to see what we’ve been using now that Viggo is older?