Denielle Kennett and her husband Joe are first-time parents. Their daughter Lennon is just over a year old.
While this past year has, of course, been a wonderful journey as she’s watched her baby grow, Kennett acknowledges the common challenges of first bringing home a baby.
“Once you leave the hospital and the euphoric feeling kind of breaks into your reality, it’s very scary,” she says. “There were many late-night trips to Walmart, CVS (or) Walgreen’s for all these things that we just didn’t know to register for or know that we would need.”
Her biggest “Aha!” moment was trying to figure out how to clear her newborn’s stuffy nose.
Another mother brought up the same issue during a breastfeeding support group, and the nurse leading the class recommended a simple solution: Buy a nasal aspirator, which sucks snot out of a baby’s nose.
It’s simple and cheap — but many parents don’t even know it exists.
“You don’t register for that,” Kennett explains. “It’s not a cute gift to get at a baby shower, so no one’s going to buy that.”
But… maybe someone should.
What Baby Stuff Do You Actually Need to Buy for a Newborn?
We know a lot of new parents — as well as anyone shopping for a baby shower — probably face this same struggle.
What do you really need to take care of a newborn?
We asked Penny Hoarders in our Facebook community group about newborn must-haves. Here are the items you all said are actually worth spending money on — even when the price tag seems steep.
1. Quality Carseats, Strollers and Carriers
TPH Pinterest specialist Gretchen Lindow says, “Good carseats with the matching stroller! The car seat will click into the stroller making it way easier to use. Plus, safety is everything.”
Megan Durgin agrees, “A baby carrier, totally worth splurging!”
2. Baby Swings and Bouncy Seats
“Mamaroo (baby swings and bouncy seats) saved our sanity!” says Emily Earll.
Lacey Keller says the baby rocker “is amazing for babies who have acid reflux.”
Mamaroo at Target costs about $250, so you know Penny Hoarders mean it when they say it’s necessary.
3. Good Diapers
Kimberly Roldan says good diapers and wipes are worth a splurge.
“Depending on sensitivity, some can cause rash and some do not hold well,” she explains.
Manuela Hatler says the same for diapers: “I always bought Pampers.” It’s not the place to cut corners.
4. Comfy Clothes for Mom
Many moms stressed the need for self-care items to protect their sanity.
Lindow explains, “If nursing, good nursing bras are totally worth spending money on.”
Kennett agrees, “This might sound silly, but I lived in (nursing tanks), because you don’t realize how hard it is. You have to dress accordingly. It’s so frustrating.”
Kimberly Ann Elizabeth adds, “Comfy, comfy stretchy bottoms for mom and some nice comfy tops, nursing-friendly if nursing. (An) awesome comfortable rocker, small speaker/docking station for mom and baby.”
She also suggests subscription boxes to keep mom, dad and the baby happy. “Cookies, flowers, mommy ‘n’ baby stuff … It’s gonna be a long ride, so giving love year-round is important.”
5. Amazon Prime Membership
Many parents recommended a $99 annual Amazon Prime Membership to help you stay stocked on necessities, without demanding you prep yourself and the baby to leave the house.
As a parent, you’re also eligible for Amazon Mom. It’s the same price as Prime, but gives you an extra 15% off baby stuff and 20% off diaper subscriptions, plus normal Prime benefits.
“Amazon Mom subscription discounts, in conjunction with savings on two-day shipping, will easily make up for the $99 annual subscription costs in less than three months,” says The Unexpected Dad.
Plus, that membership could come in handy for other miscellany you’ll need as the baby grows.
“Plenty of different-sized clothes, because babies tend to grow exponentially during their first six months of life,” says Paulo Roldan.
Heather Zielinski says, “Spend money on a good night vision video monitor system” for your baby’s safety.
And don’t forget the nasal aspirator!
6. Support From Other Parents
The most important thing new parents need, Kennett says, is support.
And it’s free!
She also finds support in parenting groups on Facebook, where new parents can ask questions and commiserate.
She stresses finding a community, “because there’s so many parents doing it by themselves or they think they’re doing it all wrong. … They’re not doing it wrong. No one knows what they’re doing. I still don’t know what I’m doing. Every day is a guessing game.”
What Baby Must-Haves You Don’t Actually Have to Have
In preparation for founding her company, It Takes a Village, Kennett surveyed new parents to learn just what they needed to care for newborns.
The company sells bundles of items to help get babies — and parents — through the first 12 weeks. She was most surprised to learn what parents say they don’t need at all.
The items Kennett’s research found least necessary were:
The most surprising thing Kennett left out of her newborn bundle? A pacifier.
“A lot of kids won’t take them, and a lot of doctors are against (them),” she says. Many parents she talked to ended up with a stock of pacifiers their infants never used.
“Out of my mom’s group — there’s six of us — I’m the only one who has a kid who’s used a pacifier,” Kennett explains. “They’re really not as common as you think. I thought those were going to score through the roof.”
2. Bottle Warmers
You don’t want to serve your newborn refrigerator-cold milk, and the occasional report about radiation or poisonous plastic definitely makes you want to steer clear of the microwave.
But as TPH editor Justin Cupler points out, “The bottle warmer is a massive waste of money, because hot water does the same thing!”
The device can run you anywhere from $20 to more than $60, and just gently warms a bottle with hot water and steam. You can achieve the same effect by placing a bottle in a mug or bowl of hot water.
A bassinet seems more like a decorative piece than a necessity these days.
The cheapest ones will cost you upwards of $100. A prettier version can be two or three times that.
“They grow out of bassinets so quickly,” say TPH photography director Sharon Steinmann. “I’d go with a hand-me-down if you really want one.”
4. Wipe Warmers
This one seems debatable. While it rated overall as unnecessary in Kennett’s research, some parents disagreed.
Cupler says he wishes his household had a wipe warmer, but they don’t.
“Those things (baby wipes) are coooooold, and can lead to a massive crying fit,” he explains.
On the other hand, Steinmann says, “My baby didn’t care about the cold wipes — but he was born in August” so maybe his wipes weren’t quite so chilly.
At between $20 to $30 for the device, you may want to hold off until your baby’s “massive crying fit” lets you know you need it.
5. Car Seat Toys/Accessories
Attaching toys to your child’s car seat may seem like a good way to entertain them without losing tiny dolls and balls under the seats on every drive.
But it could actually be dangerous, according to AAA.
“Using products that have not been tested with the car seat may interfere with how the seat was designed to perform in a crash,” AAA says in its car seat guide. “Loose items, such as mirrors, can also become a dangerous projectile in a sudden stop or crash.”
AAA recommends you only use products that come with the seat or those the manufacturer recommends.
Still, you can probably forgo the expense altogether.
“My kids never paid any more attention to car seat toys than my cats pay to their little plastic toys with bells in them,” explains TPH writer Lisa McGreevy. “I just yammered at (my kids) or sang along — badly — with the radio to keep them entertained.”
6. Portable Changing Pads
A portable changing pad seems like a must-have if you ever want to leave the house.
At about $20 apiece and in trendy “clutch” designs, they make attractive shower gifts, too.
But, “They’re really fat and bulky …,” Kennett points out. “Moms (in my research) hated them, because they would take up the whole diaper bag when you can just take a diaper and a muslin blanket and change them on that or change them in the stroller.”
Your Turn: Which newborn items do you think are worth the splurge — and what baby stuff should you save your money on?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).