Simplifying Babyhood: Top Items for Baby's First Year and Beyond

Simplifying Babyhood: Top Items for Baby’s First Year and Beyond

Last summer I was blessed with my third baby. It was a truly beautiful time, as I found it so much easier to relax, follow my mothering instincts and care for my baby in a simpler way than I did with the birth of my first two children.

This relaxed approach wove its way not only into my interactions with my baby, but also into the way that I began to view baby paraphernalia. Store displays, pregnancy magazines and mothering websites would have us believe that with a new baby must come a load of stuff to care for all of their specific needs.

I have found this just isn’t true. Less has been more for us this time around, and I expect it will continue to be should our family be blessed again.

I’m going to share my thoughts on some of our personal baby essentials throughout the first year or two (once you’re past the early newborn stage). You may agree or disagree with various things I mention, but my goal isn’t to have you agree with me.

I share merely to demonstrate what simplifying babyhood has looked like in our home, and to help you evaluate what will actually be essential for your own family. Cutting down on clutter and making do with less “stuff” is always a valuable exercise, even if your essentials ultimately look different than mine or your sister’s or your best friend’s.

Here are the baby essentials in our home.

Top Items for Sleeping

baby in cosleeper
Photo by One Step Ahead

Co-Sleeper (or playpen):

Though I’ve used a crib previously, a co-sleeper can do it all from newborn to toddler. It goes right up beside the bed for the early months of frequent nighttime nursing, then transitions to playpen style as baby grows. It packs up easily for traveling. Unless you have only a very small space, the full-size one grows with baby for much longer.

Fitted sheets and warm blankets:

Without a crib, there’s no need for a full bedding set. You only need two to three fitted sheets in neutral colors, and a few different blankets to alternate depending on how warm or cool it is.

Top Items for Diapering

babies in cloth diapers
Photo by Chris Sternal-Johnson

Cloth diapers:

I know this is a personal thing, but using cloth has meant less cost, less waste, and no midnight runs to the drug store for more sposies. I’ve fallen in love with my pocket diapers, but many systems work. About 12 good diapers allows me to wash three times a week.

Diapering accessories:

All I have are my diapers, a pail with a lid, some wipes (cheap baby washcloths) that I store in a yogurt tub with water, and some coconut oil and Weleda diaper cream for rashes. I did get a nice wet bag to hold my dirty diapers in my diaper bag as a gift this time around. It’s not essential, (I went through two babies by using old grocery bags) but it is handy.

Change pad:

I’ve found that a change table just isn’t necessary. I have a dresser that converts into one (a practical idea if you really do love having a change table) but I just never use it. I prefer the floor with a foldable change pad and a small basket with my diapering supplies.

Top Items for Eating

baby eat broccoliPhoto by lindaaslund

I’ve recently discovered the joys of not making or using baby food . It’s sheer bliss and it couldn’t be easier.

To make this work really well, it helps to delay solids as long as possible. Once babies hit six to ten months, this should come naturally. At first they’ll mostly play with the food and this is fine, but gradually they’ll start to learn to do it and they’ll let you know that they’d like more!

It means that I need very little in the way of items for feeding. Here’s what I use.

Sippy cups:

I like to train my babies to use cups as soon as they can, but I do think it’s helpful to have a couple good BPA-free sippy cups, especially for outings. It isn’t really necessary to have a bunch of child cups, either. My kids actually prefer to use our smallest “grown up” glasses instead.

Bowls, plates & utensils:

I don’t bother with cutlery for quite a while. My nine month old just eats straight off her highchair tray. It’s going to get messy anyway, so why have two things to clean?

Once baby is older and can feed themselves with a spoon or fork, I love using small custard bowls (Pyrex are wonderful) or lightweight Corel bowls. Our babies and toddlers just use the same stainless steel teaspoons that we use, and the smaller dessert forks that came with our silverware set.

Booster seat:

This is an essential for me, to have a place for baby to eat on their own. But I’ve found that having a large, bulky highchair just isn’t necessary.

A smaller, portable, booster-style seat that attaches to a dining room chair works well as soon as baby can sit on their own, and then it transitions into a great place for a toddler. We currently have a regular highchair for our baby and a booster seat for our toddler, because that’s what we were given, but if something ever happened to the highchair, I would definitely replace it with another booster seat instead.

Top Items for Transportation

woman with baby in ergo
Photo by Tiare Scott


I’ve come to really love our Phil and Ted stroller. I never thought I would own such an expensive stroller, but for those with more than one young child, this is a wonderful option that allows you to own a single stroller, but still have double stroller functionality.

Some families get by with just one single stroller and have their toddler walk, or else push the toddler and use a baby carrier for their infant. This is a perfect option for those who don’t want to spend so much on a stroller, as you can get by with a simple, functional stroller that folds down flat and can be used for either an infant or a toddler (like this Zooper we used to have).

Baby carrier:

This is one of the few items of which I actually have two different varieties. I like to use a fitted sling for the early months, and switch over to an Ergo as soon as baby has good head control. There are many styles of baby wearing (Mei Tais, Moby wraps, ring slings, Baby Bjorns, and the like). They’re all great, if they suit your needs. Do a bit of research, or even see if you can borrow or try out carriers from people you know.

Having a baby carrier that you love makes taking baby out a simple feat. I will often choose a baby carrier over taking a stroller with me, unless we’ll be walking for a long time. For church, it’s much nicer to use than carting around the stroller, and makes it easy to ensure that baby naps.

Top Items for Play

baby toys
Photo by alex_lee2001

We’ve borrowed things like swings, exersaucers, and play mats, and in the end, I’ve realized that I don’t need or particularly want to have any of them cluttering up my house.

Babywearing is the perfect solution to a fussy little one, and usually more effective than a vibrating chair or a swing. Being next to mama and feeling close to the action of daily life makes most infants feel soothed and secure.

Infant-to-toddler chair:

This is the one item I haven’t been willing to part with. It can be useful for putting baby down to take a quick shower, or to give your back a rest from baby wearing if they’re happy to sit and look around.

Teething toys:

As for toys, we have very few that are especially geared to young babies. We do have about five to six high quality teething toys (both soft and wooden).

I’m selling our “baby” toys and some of our board books. Johanna is quite content to use her older sibling’s toys, like dolls and stuffed animals, colorful building blocks, play kitchen items or wooden cars, so there’s no sense in doubling up on playthings. She also finds their storybooks with beautiful artwork much more appealing than those one-word infant board books (ball, car, orange, blah).

Top Items for the Bathroom

baby in bath
Photo by CharlotteSpeaks

I’ve never understood the need for an infant bath tub. Using the regular tub with less water, and my arm cradled under baby, has always seemed like such an easy solution. I’ve also tried the mesh washing boards (much smaller for storage) but still found that baby was happiest in my arms.

Tub seat:

It lets an older baby sit and play without mom having to hover over the tub quite as much. My little girl enjoys splashing around in hers, in the tub with her siblings, while I sit on the (closed) toilet seat and meal plan. Multi-tasking at its finest.

Children’s toilet seat adapter:

Although both of my older children have used a toddler potty somewhat, neither of them have cared much for it. Instead, they prefer to use the grown-up potty and a stool, so that they can do it “just like Mommy and Daddy.”

One useful gadget is a smaller toilet seat that fits on top of the adult seat, which helps little ones feel more secure. It comes on and off easily, and is much more compact for storing in both your bathroom or when you’re not actively potty training.

What baby items do you find to be essential in the first year or two?

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