Hello mamas out there! I have SEVERAL friends who are getting pregnant or trying to get pregnant. So I've been asked more than once in the last month, "what is YOUR list of essentials for the first year?" I'm so glad you asked! I think that the baby industry is second only to the wedding industry these days in convincing people to buy things they don't need at prices twice as high as they should pay. Ick. I hate it. I did a lot of research before Miss O was born, but even still, I ended up owning some things that I didn't need. Thus, more than a year in, I think I've finally fine tuned my "essentials" list for year one.
Transporting Baby- we chose to get a car seat and a "snap and go" stroller (aka a frame stroller) for that car seat. It was small, compact, traveled well on the T and via our small car, didn't take up too much space. We used it for 1 year until O outgrew the bucket car seat and needed to size up. We never felt we needed a "larger" or different stroller, except for a couple weeks where I daydreamed about having a "jogging" stroller so I could work out... then I went back to work, and didn't have time to work out with baby anyway... glad I didn't waste the money. Now that we're on to larger kiddo, we have a larger/sturdier "umbrella stroller" and a convertible car seat. Again, I don't feel the need for anything more/larger. This fits all our needs. We were gifted this Tricycle for O's first birthday and daddy loves to take her out in it. But I always wish that we had the stroller instead.
Receiving Blankets- we LOVED swaddling Ms. O when she was tiny. Despite that, we really only needed 5-7 max (had 10-12 and some never got used). The normal cotton ones you can get at any baby store were fine, but we really loved the slightly larger, slightly stretchier ones that were available. One brand example is aden and anais. The larger size meant we could use it longer and the stretchier fabric felt more cozy and made swaddling easier. Much to my surprise, I did NOT use any of the "pre folded" swaddling contraptions with velcro straps and stuff. They collected dust and I re-sold them quickly.
Diapers - for the first 3-4 months, we loved our Gdiapers. Now we use bum genius all-in-ones. I think the "all-in-ones" make cloth diapers a really easy decision. All of the inserts and snaps and things on other types are stressful, STILL, when I look at them. I think somewhere between a dozen and 2 dozen cloth diapers is a good start, dependent on how often you want to do laundry. We use the cheapest store brand we can find on amazon when we use disposable. I've never met a brand that wasn't "good enough."
Diapering Accessories - if you're going to cloth diaper, I'd recommend you get these items from the start: a diaper sprayer, a wet bag for home, and some wet bags that are smaller/zip up that can go in a diaper bag for being out of the house. Brand doesn't matter. Buy the cheap one.
Breast Pump - get a good one. It's worth the money and your insurance probably covers it. I loved the Medela Pump n' Style. I actually owned two (got them both used), which was PERFECT for having one at home (in case I needed to pump in a crisis, or I took it with me to Hebrew Rehab) and one at work. I had extra pump parts too, which made the back and forth to work a little easier/less stressful on my new mommy memory.
Places for baby to sleep - even though we co-slept from night one, we really appreciated having a couple of safe sleeping choices for those first few months when O was in the "lump on a log" phase. We used a Summer Infant Sleeper (great for tossing in the car to go to Grammie's house. Also good for the back yard and the living room floor). We also used a "travel bassinet" (not this exact one, but similar). We used it only in the bedroom. We were handed down a pack-n-play and didn't use it much because it felt so hard to rock her to sleep and then lay her down so low to the floor with such a tall wall. It also took up more space than we wanted it to in our little apartment. By Christmas (8 months), my mom tried to put her in a pack'n'play at Nana's house and O absolutely hated the cage. It lasted about 5 seconds. After the first few weeks, though, my favorite non-bedroom sleeping apparatus was a boppy with a blanket underneath it.
Places for baby to sit/lay when you're freaking out- we were handed down a baby swing which we looked at and thought it was too huge, too plastic, and we'd never use it. But when O was fussy and I couldn't think straight, it was our go-to. She napped in it once a day during my maternity leave. I gifted it away by 4-5 months when she was more mobile. I've heard other moms talk about vibrating chairs similarly, which have the benefit of being able to drag into the bathroom while you shower. I think every mom should have ONE device that you can strap him/her into and walk away if you need to pee or cry. :-)
Bathing- we owned one of these little baby baths, but I don't think it was a "must." I only recall using it a couple times. When O was little enough to sit inside, she slipped, slid, and didn't have good trunk support. It took two of us to bath her in there, so it wasn't helpful for me alone. When she was too little to sit independently, I actually showered with her most often (daddy could help when he was home, but I could do it alone when needed). Once she sat up, we bathed her in the kitchen sink. Once she could stand, we use a bigger tub that goes down inside our bathtub... it is sorta like a big tupperware bin... that way it's more easily cleaned if she poos in the tub and it also uses less water to bathe her than filling the whole bathtub. We also have about a dozen baby wash cloths and maybe 2-3 baby towels with the hood (which are SO CUTE). Don't get suckered into other baby bath things like robes and slippers-- useless.
Bottles- I really wanted to be earthy and use stainless steel or glass bottles. But the truth was, the day care wanted plastic only. So I succumbed to that and just used the medela ones that came with/attached so easily to my breast pump. I was always sad about it, though. Switched to Evenflo glass as soon as we were using a nanny part time. I used Evenflo, Gerber, and Medela slow flow nipples, as they were all interchangeable.
Other feeding: We have daddy's old fashioned high chair. We were gifted/handed down a Bumbo, but used it about 3 times total- don't buy it. I'm craving a smaller high chair or booster seat that would sit on top of one of our kitchen chairs or attach straight to the table, as I'm ready for the high chair to take up less space in my kitchen. We had about a dozen cloth bibs which we didn't use at all until she started eating solid foods (between 4-6 months for small amounts of purees, 6 months + for solids). Now that she's bigger, we use larger easy wipe bibs and only have 2-3 of them, because they don't have to be removed from the kitchen for washing, so they get reused more and we need less. We never really used specialized "burp cloths," but instead used about a dozen pre fold diapers as burp cloths. Once O was eating solid food in the chair, we use about a dozen baby wash cloths to wipe her face/hands/the table, rinse out, and then wash at the end of the day.
Dishes: we have found small glass bowls and real silverware at Bed Bath and Beyond, and don't really use any plasticware very often or dedicated baby dishes at all. Plates are just distracting, we put food straight on the tray unless it's a puree. We love our Foogo straw cups-- have 2 of those and essentially don't drink out of anything else except for the occasional open cup.
Clothing: My advice to moms is don't buy anything yourself until after a shower, if you have one. Clothing will be the thing you have coming out your ears. I'd say regardless of weather where you live, your 0-3 month sized set should include about a dozen onesies, 5-7 sleepers (with feet or the little elastic bottomed/dress kind), 2-3 caps, and 2-3 pairs of little mittens that keep him/her from scratching themselves. ALL OTHER CLOTHING IS JUST FOR STYLE, so it doesn't count as a "must have" but OMG clothing shopping for babies is so much fun, so enjoy it once you decide to do it! :-)
Pacifiers - didn't want to use 'em, but O proved me wrong. We have about 6 that are in the rotation and couldn't survive without 'em. Brand doesn't matter.
Monitors - our house is so small, we didn't NEED one. Were handed down a video monitor which proved nice once in a while, so if your home is big enough, the video was a cool feature. We gifted this away after O was big enough to a) shout loud enough for me to hear her quickly or b) climb out of her floor bed and walk into the living room to find me.
General "health" supplies: baby nail clippers, baby thermometer (rectal is the only one that's reliable), baby snot sucker - you'll probably get one at the hospital-- ask for a spare. Also have baby tylenol on hand in case you need it in the middle of the night.
Baby Wearing Devices: my favorite was the Moby Wrap until O was walking (11-12 months). Daddy loved the Bjorn when she was little enough for it. As she's gotten older and bigger, we transitioned to a Beco (I think we bought it in February at 10 months???), which is just like the Ergo. I love that I can put her on my back in it. I also love that it has a little hood that helps keep it dark to get her to sleep.
What things did YOU think were essentials in year one???