The Baby Essentials

Jack cozied up in the infant car seat attachment to our bugaboo lined with a sheepskin rug
(Navy sweater hand-made in Rochester, New York by Joyce Zinkin (585) 330-0372)

If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I hate 'stuff' and my husband hates it even more than me.  So when we found out we were having a baby we had a little panic attack about how we'd ever collect the things we needed without sacrificing our lives to an unrelenting mess of 'baby stuff'.  Lots of people have written in and asked me about baby items and so I thought I'd share a list of essential items to purchase before your baby arrives.  You don't need more than the things I list below, and in fact you can do just fine with less.  This collection of goods will easily get you through the first two months when you will begin to be well rested enough to start restocking and considering what else you might like.  

After WWII, everyone was strapped for cash and people did the best they could with what they had.  Babies didn't sleep in $1000 Oeuf cribs.  They slept in the emptied out top drawers of their parents' dressers.  The list below is the list of things that Peter and I loved and bought, but I promise that if there are items you can't afford or just plain hate, you'll be fine.  If I were to make an honest and unembellished list of items for a newborn it'd simply be: diapers, a blanket, a pair of breasts.

Check out the hyperlinks in the list below.  They link to my favorite items and in some cases link to articles about baby development.  If you have any questions or if there is an item that does not appear on this list that someone has convinced you that you need (bottle sterilization systems, fancy drying racks, diaper genies, changing tables), shoot me an email to and I'll convince you otherwise.

Strollers and Carriers

Bugaboo Cameleon Stroller special edition with all-black hardware and neon wheels
Maxi Cosi Mico Infant Car Seat & Adapter for Bugaboo
Bugaboo cup holder
Stroller Hooks by Think King
Baby K'Tan Sling in black (sized for mom)
Stokke Baby Carrier
Sheepskin Rug to line stroller
(or for many other uses)

We chose the Bugaboo Cameleon in all-black because we felt it was the least 'baby-like'.  We all walk Peter to the subway each morning and Peter strolls Jack in the Bugaboo wearing a suit.  Besides it being heartbreakingly adorable to see your suited husband strolling your newborn, the whole thing is actually an acceptable sartorial moment rather than an eyesore.  The scene would be a lot different with space-age silver tubing and bright green nylon fabric.  There's nothing wrong with the space age or with bright green, but to me it says, "you've had a baby and you've given up."  The Maxi Cosi Mico Infant Car Seat is the only infant car seat I could find in all black.  I like the shape, it snaps very easily into the bugaboo and it is the lightest weight infant car seat on the market, which is ideal for my walk-up apartment.  If you live in a walk-up: write each of your neighbors a very nice letter asking permission to leave the base of your stroller in the entryway of your apartment.  Each time you go upstairs you'll detatch the car seat and carry it up on its own.  Note also that in most cities you will not be permitted to leave the hospital without an infant car seat so consider making this purchase prior to 36 weeks.  

As for the sling and the Stokke, we chose both based on looks.  The Stokke looks classic and sturdy and vaguely reminds me of 1974 (not that I was living yet).  The sling is better for very warm weather (it's made of a lightweight easily washable cotton) and is a great around-the-house accessory.  If your baby wont stop crying you'll buy yourself a couple of hours of peace with the sling.  If you can only afford one carrier, choose a carrier like the Stokke that can be adjusted to fit either mom or dad.  Unless you are the same size as your husband, the sling will be sized for mama only.

The sheepskin won't be a perfect fit but don't fret - just throw it in there.  Your baby will be asleep in seconds.


I bought a Skip Hop Acitivity Gym , a Sassy baby mirror and Skip Hop Stroller Toys.  Among other beautiful gifts, we received a Sophie the Giraffe, a metrocard and a taxi handknit rattle and ABC blocks from Land of Nod that I love.  Each guest brought a children's book to my baby shower and we read Jack a book each night, so do stock up on those.  A list of best children's books will be the subject of another post but my favorite to read him at this age is Fox on Socks because its a tongue twister!  

This is my no-nonsense, "you'll be fine", "I dont care if you have a 102 degree fever you're going to school", WASP upbringing talking but: I think developmental toys are ridiculous.  Jack is approaching eight weeks and there are very clear times of day when he is alert and receptive.  During those times I speak to him.  I tell him stories about zoo animals who escaped from Africa to pursue their dreams in the Hollywood Hills.  I hold his hands.  Sometimes I change things up by putting the sleeve of my sweater or a blanket in his palm.  I play him Chopin, Mozart and Miley Cyrus.  When every little thing in life is new, it's all a learning experience.  Talk to your baby and touch him.  Buy developmental toys if you like them but don't feel pressured to.  You don't need them.  And although I really enjoy having the items listed above, you will not use any of them (except the mirror) in the first three months of your baby's life.  (I keep the mirror in his crib and he has been very interested in it since about four weeks.)

Gazing at oneself can be really exhausting (pictured here in jammies that I wore in the 80's)


Sheet Savers (one set of 2)
Crib Mattress 
Crib Bumper 
Fitted Crib Sheet 
Moses Basket (ours is from an antique store)
Crib Skirt (if you like them; I don't)

We use the Seed Organic Cradle for our bassinet which is on loan from a friend and is unfortunately no longer in production.  If I were buying one I'd choose 
this one but it's very expensive and you can easily find one for under $400.  You can also use: (a) the bassinet attachment from your stroller as a sleeping arrangement, with or without a separately purchased base or (b) a moses basket lined with a down pillow, but only if you are comfortable flouting the widely held belief that babies should be sleeping on as firm a surface as possible to prevent suffocation.  Choose a crib that is made completely of wood (not just a wood veneer) with a non-toxic finish.  We opted for the Oeuf Sparrow but I've seen this less expensive version from Walmart in other nurseries and it looks really great.  If you are following 'the rules' you should purchase an organic, reversible crib mattress with a firm side for infant use and a softer side for toddlerhood; the mattress linked above follows these parameters.  Crib bumpers and crib bedding outside of a standard fitted cribsheet are generally considered death traps.  That said, we love our crib bumper and we have three cashmere blankets that we use both to keep jack warm in the stroller and at night in his bassinet.  If you believe that blankets are death traps, opt for a sleep sack (particularly after your baby grows too large to be constrained by a swaddle blanket).

A moses basket lined with a down pillow is a great portable sleep spot



Baby Sponge liner
1 really cozy towel (I like Shinzi Katoh, available in-store at ABC Carpet & Home - great gift!)
1 hooded towel
1 pack cheap washcloths
Weleda Baby Calendula Creme Wash
Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo
Burt's Bees Baby Oil
Aveeno Calming Moisturizer

Simplify.  Instead of a big expensive plastic tub, use your bathroom sink lined with a sponge.  Instead of harsh soaps, use water on most days.  The creme wash is almost as gentle as plain water and the Aveeno is good for the days when you want to wash his hair.  Tip: When Jack was 1 and 2 weeks old I gave him his bath in the morning. But my life has completely changed since I started his nighttime bath routine.  Give baby a bath, followed by moisturizer (rub it into his hands so he can practice his grip and he will light up!), a bottle with as much milk as that baby belly can handle and a nighttime story.  He'll quickly learn that this means "Go The Fuck To Sleep".

Don't waste your money on newfangled plastic tubs.  Line your sink with a baby sponge or a handtowel. (This picture was originally posted here)

Diapers & Changing
1 jumbo pack pampers newborn diapers
1 jumbo pack pampers size 1 diapers
1 jumbo pack seventh generation wipes (unscented)
1 patemm pad
1 storage caddy
Triple Paste (or other diaper rash cream)
3-4 packs Better Basics Burping Cloths

If you live in New York City you probably don't have room for a changing table or a diaper genie.  The good news is: you don't need either.  The patemm pad is adorable and can be stored on the bed during the day and on the dining room table at night.  Keep all of your products in reach with a cute little caddy stuffed with diapers, wipes and bathtime products.  It might seem excessive to purchase 4 packs of burping cloths but I promise you'll always be looking for one.  I recommend choosing four places in your home where you can always find one: next to the bed, next to the crib, on the arm of the sofa, etc.  


No changing table? No problem.


Clothing & Blankets
1 Kissy Kissy footie (newborn size)
1 Baby CZ gown style PJ (0-3)
1 pack Carter's white onesies (short or longsleeved depending on the weather)
1 pack Carter's printed onesies
1 pack Better Basics Swaddle Blankets
1 pack Aden & Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets
1 cashmere blanket
1 Nature Baby for J.Crew hat
1 set of Etiquette Socks

Seriously.  This is all you need.  True, you'll need to re-up your clothing at around 1 month.  At that time you'll better know what you need and what size you'll need it in.  Keep in mind that French brands (Bon Point, Petite Bateau, Jacadi) run small.  American Brands and Scandanavian Brands (Baby Gap, Polarn O Pyret, Hanna Andersson) run big.   Tip: your baby will be in newborn sized clothing for 1-4 weeks and during that time he will be (i) immobile and (ii) wrapped 24/7 in a swaddle blanket.  So save your budget for the nice cotton footies like kissy kissy and petite bateau (other than 1 or 2 items) for 3 mo. and up.   

A note on laundry: people are always telling me not to buy nice baby clothes or cashmere blankets because they are too complicated to wash.  Jack has a collection of beautiful knits that I was able to pick up at a Bon Point sample sale and some beautiful cashmere blankets (J.Crew, Bergdorf Goodman) as gifts.  He pees and throws up on his clothes all of the time and yesterday I spilled coffee on our light colored cashmere blanket when I was crossing the cobblestone street with a full coffee in the stroller cup holder.  Cashmere is easy to clean.  Spot clean it or other knitwear in cold water with a tiny drop of either clear liquid soap, organic gentle baby laundry detergent, or other fine laundry detergent (like The Laundress).  If you are going to wash the whole item, wash it under a cold running tap or in a mixing bowl with cold water.  It takes 1-2 minutes total.  Lay out flat to dry.

A note on clothing storage: We don't have any room for storage.  We literally keep Jack's clothing in a container store elfa system meant for kitchens.  We keep everything we can out in decorative baskets (like blankets and toys) or in storage under the bed.  I keep a specific list of what's in storage so I remember to cycle through things.  You will cycle through clothing sizes every 1-2 months.

Breastfeeding & Bottles

A free double electric breast pump from your insurance company (gobama!)
2 4oz Avent bottles & newborn natural nipples
MAM Infant Pacifiers
Lasinoh disposable nursing pads (jumbo pack) & soothing nipple cream
Lasinoh breastmilk storage bags
Medela cotton nursing pads (2 packs)
Boppy Nursing Pillow (I have and use this but it can easily be skipped; just use a regular pillow)

Breast feeding is difficult to get the hang of.  I promise that if you're having trouble you will work it out with time.  And if you find that it is too difficult or too exhausting to handle, your baby will be cool with formula.  (At one point I thought to myself, "I really can't do this."  A friend recommended that I pump just one ounce of breast milk and add it to formula so that Jack would continue to receive my immunities until six months.  Luckily things worked themselves out, but consider this as an option if you're thinking about ditching breast feeding.)  Cotton nursing pads will be great when your breasts are very sore in the beginning; disposable pads will be fine afterwards.  I knew I liked my pediatrician because I interviewed him when I was six months pregnant.  My first question was, "everyone is crazy. I keep hearing about all of these things I need and it just doesn't make sense to me.  Whats the deal with bottle sterilization?  I dont have room for one of those spaceship sized kits."  He laughed.  And said, "You don't need a bottle sterilization kit.  You need a sponge, soap and hot water.  Breast milk is naturally sterile."  With that said,  I prefer the Avent bottles because they're easiest to clean but you may find that your baby prefers a different type so wait until he's born until you commit to buying a whole bunch of them.  In any case, give your baby a bottle in the first month of his life or you may find that he wont ever take to them (which may be the difference between leaving the babysitter with a pumped bottle and being stuck at home).

Also, ditch the purel but make a habit of washing hands in soap and warm.  Germs are good for babies (and all of us, in fact).

I seldomly use the boppy pillow for breast feeding but it's a great place to prop up Jack for playtime

Mommy Gear

Lightweight totebag (If you don't want to spring for the Goyard pictured below, this Joie tote is a great alternative)
Rickshaw diaper pouch (or 2) (great gift!)
1 seamless vneck style nursing bra
2 Splendid cotton elastic bras (size large; for proper nursing bras with more support try Elle MacPherson- available in store at Petticoat Lane in TriBeCa)
Something to use as a nursing cover like this American Apparel Circle Scarf

Adjusting to breast feeding is frustrating.  If you want to avoid being a shut-in, invest in some things to make yourself comfortable.  I find that the easiest style shirt to breast feed in is loose, machine washable and is easily pulled up so that Jack can rest under my shirt (as opposed to wearing a shirt in which you pull or unbutton the neck down).  I like this Splendid top and I've been living in this Helmut Lang sweatshirt (also available in angora).  Tip: throw the American Apparel Circle Scarf (black) in the bottom of your stroller or in your diaper bag.  When you find yourself... exposed... you'll always have cover.  Throw it over your head so that it rests diagonally to one side.  The fabric can be spread out to fully cover your body and your baby.  It's soft, it's machine washable, it's cheap, it's discreet.  

A note on diaper bags: I don't get them.  Where do you bring a diaper bag?  To lunch?  To your parents house?  My thought is that your best bet is a lightweight treated canvas tote that you can easily carry and clean.  To compensate for the lack of pockets, grab a rickshaw designs diaper pouch.  I keep mine loaded up with 4 diapers, an extra Carter's onesie, a pack of (almost empty) wipes, a burp cloth and a pacifier.  If I need anything for the baby I just reach for the pouch and I'm all set.  One more accessory you might want to consider for your diaper bag: a kind bar or a luna bar for those really exhausted moments.

On our morning stroll comfort is key: Helmut Lang sweatshirt, rag & bone skinnies (with stretch!), goyard tote

Ok, so I'm a minimalist.  And you can see my disdain for things.  But if there are things you like and if you want to give your little babe a bath in a tub because the sink makes you nervous, go girl!  Being a mom is about the choices you (and only you!) make.  This post is to give you an idea about the items you need that are high quality and should last you through your family-making years and to remind you that you don't need every gismo on the Buy Buy Baby 'mommy walk' (oh GOD, that mommy walk! - more about that here).  Wishing all you new mamas and mamas-to-be joy and REM cycle sleep!


PS Some items not listed above that are worth considering:

Babyganics Laundry Detergent
Babyganics Stain Spray
Jambox (for use at the hospital for music (Jack was born to a Schubert opera) and as a portable noisemaker in combination with a white noise iphone app, I use 'Baby White')
Happiest Baby on the Block DVD (buy this or request from your pediatrician) - essential lessons for soothing your baby