Kids are expensive! While the most expensive part of having a baby is childcare costs, actual baby gear comes in a close second. How do you know what you really should buy and what you should skip?
My daughter is now a year old, which means I have graduated from “new mom” to just a mom. And it’s great.
One of the things I can do now is bestow on other new moms sage advice, like what to buy for baby’s first year. The list below doesn’t summarize everything you’ll need to purchase for baby’s first year, but it does tell you what I bought that I personally found most valuable!
16 Essential Purchases for Baby’s First Year
1. Stroller ($730)
I hate to start with the obvious, but since a good stroller will likely be one of your pricier purchases as a new parent, it deserves to come first on the list. I got the Uppa Baby Cruz, which was the perfect mix of sturdy, fashionable, and easy to maneuver.
I chose the Cruz because of its large under-basket to carry everything from baby gear to groceries, while still being compact enough to navigate the Starbucks line. It’s also fairly lightweight for its size and easy to fold to store. The leather handles once made someone refer to it as “the Ferrari of strollers” when I was out and about, which was nice too.
Notes: We also bought the Chicco KeyFit30 car seat, which snapped into the Uppa Baby Cruz stroller no problem with a simple adapter. Not all car seats fit in all cars (which I didn’t know until Barry of Money We Have told me!!) so do your research before you buy!
2. Carrier Wrap ($55)
The Boba Wrap was one of the first items I added to my baby registry when I was pregnant, and it was hands-down the best gift I received at my baby shower. While a wrap takes an extra few seconds to tie on than simply buckling into a baby carrier, I found it more comfortable for wearing my baby for longer stretches of time and it held her closer to me.
In the early months, I was probably babywearing 4-6 hours per day! It was easy: she weighed less than 10lbs and it kept my hands free. I always found putting my baby in the wrap for a quick walk or errand way easier than taking a stroller out.
I even learned how to nurse in the wrap, so those hot summer days when I had a newborn, I often wore the wrap over a bra and that’s it. If I left the house, I put a jacket on to cover my back & shoulders, but otherwise baby and I were skin-to-skin and people were none the wiser that I wasn’t wearing a shirt.
3. Car Side Window Shield ($17)
This universal car side window sun shade is a great way to keep your baby cool and comfortable in their car seat.
Where I live, we have very, very long days in the summer (the sun rises at 5 am and sets at 11 pm!) and then very short days in the winter. As a result, it feels like the sun is at an inconvenient place in the sky at all times. It is always shining in my eyes when I drive! It’s also often shining on my baby in her car seat, which doesn’t help for sleep or comfort.
I found this sun shade was easy to put on, and blended so seamlessly with my car I never take it off!
4. Dockatot ($150)
I’m not listing the Dockatot to cause an internet uproar, it actually was one of my favorite baby items of all time.
When my baby was very small, the Dockatot went room to room with us. If the doorbell rang, it was a safe place I could set my daughter down and go answer the door. It was a cozy comfortable place for my baby to rest beside me. It also gave my arms a rest from holding her all day. I even used it to lay her down in while I took a bath or shower.
The Dockatot was easier to take room to room — or even to visit at someone’s house! — than a playpen or bassinet.
5. Handheld Breastpump ($20)
I’ve shared this item in multiple blog posts and YouTube videos and I expect I’ll share it multiple times more. This baby purchase had the biggest ROI of any item on my list — firstly because it only costs $20.
The NatureBond Silicone Handheld Breastpump serves two essential functions:
- ensures not a single drop of liquid gold aka. breastmilk is wasted
- relieves painful engorgement.
It’s small enough to keep in your purse so you can have it on hand whenever you need.
6. Backpack Diaper Bag ($99)
There’s a lot of effort made by diaper bag designers to make these bag stylish and posh. It’s important to remember you will be getting actual human feces on them at some point, so choose accordingly. When I was shopping for a diaper bag, I followed the advice of other moms and opted for a backpack instead of a shoulder tote. It’s paid off.
Trust me, there are many times when you will want to have both hands available, so a bag on your back is the way to go. I went with the neoprene Skip Hop Nolita backpack diaper bag in camouflage (because camo is the only pattern I tolerate in my wardrobe), but that color doesn’t seem to be available anymore! Here is the Skip Hop Nolita backpack in pink & grey and the newest in navy blue.
7. Stretchy Nursing/Stroller Cover ($60)
When it comes to saving money as a parent, items that do double duty are key. I had two stroller covers, but one was infinitely superior to the other for a simple reason: stretch. This made it easier to stay put both on the stroller and on me when I was breastfeeding.
I received theONEcover by local Calgary mompreneur of Love My Life Boutique as a gift, and it was so much better than the Itzy Ritzy cover I had purchased myself.
8. Extra-Long Non-Slip Bath Mat ($20)
My daughter doesn’t really like baths. It’s virtually impossible to get her to actually sit in the bath, so most of the time she’s standing. However, I bought a non-slip bathmat before she was even on her feet, because I found even a sitting baby is difficult to keep from slipping in the tub.
Once your child graduates from the infant tub (which for us was as early as 3 months!) and you start using the big bath, a non-slip mat in the tub is an absolute essential. I chose an extra-long one, and you should too because your child probably won’t sit quietly in one place in the tub either!
9. Faucet Cover ($14)
The second most important way to prevent injuries at bathtime after the non-slip mat, is a faucet cover. I picked up the Moby whale-shaped faucet cover that has saved us many a head-bonk over the past year. it also looks super cute! Even child-free friends comment on its adorableness when they visit our home.
10. Foam Play Mat ($80)
When my baby was just learning to roll over, my hardwood floors were not the ideal surface for practice. You might think a rug is a good solution, but only if you have yet to learn how much a baby spits up. You not want to be scrubbing spit up (or anything else) out of your rug daily so a waterproof surface is a lifesaver. I purchased the Skip Hop Playspot Waterproof Foam Baby Play Mat.
11. Activity Centre ($92)
I received a whale-themed Fisher Price activity gym as a gift, and my baby got endless hours of joy out of it. I can’t find the exact one I have, but this Baby Einstien one is very close. Truthfully, your baby won’t really care which activity gym you choose, but I do think a activity gym is essential!
12. Toy Box ($24)
You’ll have too many baby toys for your little one before they’re even aware of what toys are. I initially used a pair of boring boxes to house my baby’s playthings, but eventually decided to spruce things up with the super cute 3 Sprouts Toy Chest. I chose the one with the leopard, but there are plenty of animals to pick from!
13. Double Electric Breastpump ($340)
I breastfed for a proud 13-months, but it wasn’t always easy. The first month of breastfeeding was a special kind of hell, and even when it was good, it still remains one of the most demanding things I’ve ever had to do.
My baby received expressed milk in a bottle from her dad or nanny whenever I needed a break, but the only reason I was able to keep that milk stash going was because I ponied up the cash for the Medela Pump In Style double electric breast pump.
A breast pump actually counts as a “medical device” and can be claimed by many health plans. I used my company health spending account to buy mine with no issues!
14. Winter Stroller Cover ($45)
I live in Canada where it gets very cold, but I still prefer to get most places by walking rather than driving. Furthermore, I want to raise my little Canadian baby as a real Canadian who knows how to endure the cold. However, enduring the cold doesn’t have to mean suffering!
I bought the JJ Cole Bundle Me cover for my Uppa Baby Cruz stroller, but it will fit most strollers easily. It’s so easy to zip my baby in and out of it and it keeps her super cozy and warm. I’ve found it especially useful because she loves to remove her gloves, and this way I can zip her arms down so she stays warm even against her best efforts.
I purchased mine on Amazon, but I have since spotted it at Winners, too!
15. Cloth blankets ($21)
I strongly recommend getting a dozen multi-purpose cloth blankets. You will use them for absolutely everything: wiping up spit up, swaddling, putting down as a play area on the floor our outside, as a nursing cover for yourself, etc. You will need a dozen because you will use so many in a single day, and you want to keep at least 3 in every room at all times. You think it sounds excessive. I promise you it’s not. I received all mine as gifts, but a set like this is perfect. Order two.
16. Waterproof Bib With Catcher ($14)
This Skip Hop Zoo Fold & Go silicone bib is a tad bulky, but it does do the job. This keeps most food off my daughter’s shirt and out of her lap during meal times, which is all I can ask for. It’s easy to clean and portable, too.
Popular baby things I didn’t buy!
There were a few items my baby didn’t take to or I simply didn’t want, but other people find useful. Here were items I didn’t use:
- a baby swing (I actually gave mine to Alyssa of Mixed Up Money!)
- a white noise machine
- baby monitor
- baby gates
- rocking chair
If you’re on the fence about buying something for your baby, one of the best things you can do is wait until your baby is actually born. Then you can purchase an item, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, just return it! This is better than stocking up on big-ticket items months before your little one arrives, only to find they hate it and you’re way past the return or exchange date!