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Baby Essentials for a Small Space

Let's face it: when you're having a baby, people try to convince you that you need a whole heck of a lot of crap.  Bouncy seats and matching sheet sets and changing tables etc. etc.  I'm sort of a minimalist at heart (oh right, and I live in a 750 square foot condo), so we've really tried our darndest to keep the baby stuff to a minimum.

Here are a few things that I would consider absolutely essential, a few very-nice-to-haves, and a few that I consider a total waste of space.*

*Disclaimer: These are obviously my own opinions about what worked for OUR kids.  If you consider that ginorm swing a necessity, by all means, go ahead and take up 25 of your precious square feet.


Necessary
  • A place to sleep.  This doesn't have to be a crib.  Nat slept just fine in the bassinet insert of a travel-lite sized pack n play for 6 months, and C is in there now.  Throw in a basic sheet and waterproof pad (the cheap ones work fine, IMO) and you're set.  Some kind friends gave us their crib they were done using and it's served us just fine.
  • Food.  Since I nurse, my necessities will vary from those of a mom who does formula.
    • A good nursing bra.  You guys, this seriously makes ALL the difference.  I have a really hard time finding my size so went the whole time with Nat with one that was a little big in the band.  This time, I ordered one online, and good gracious I love it.  Totally worth every penny.
    • A nursing cover.  I know there is lots of dissension about nursing covers.  Yes, I know some people feel they scream "hey, I'm nursing over here!"  And depending on what I'm wearing, I may not use one (if I can pull one shirt up and one shirt down, I'm usually good).  But to me, I don't really care if people know I'm nursing (and frankly, most people, especially those without kids, don't even realize - when we were in Africa with Nat, I walked around a few times while nursing him and people were constantly asking to see the "sleeping baby").  And if I have a shirt that just pulls down, I don't exactly want to completely expose myself in public.  I'm not coordinated enough to manage a blanket (plus, they're HOT), so a cover it is for me. (I have the Jones print because they always have coupons for free covers for this brand and you only pay shipping.)
    • Extra food for you.  Because while I don't really eat more while pregnant, I am constantly starving in the early days of nursing.
  • Car seat.  The infant car seat is sometimes nice so you can keep baby sleeping, but, to be honest, when they're little enough to stay asleep when moved, they're probably little enough to stay that way when picked up, too.  Nat didn't mind his car seat, but kina HATES hers, so we generally try to get her out of there as quickly as possible, anyway.  Plus, I have no idea why I always carried Nat in the heavy and awkward car seat up flights of stairs.  It is SO much easier (especially while also managing a toddler) to just grab the baby.  And at church now, I just stick the baby in the carrier and she passes out the whole time, instead of constantly needing to rock her in the car seat. So if I were to do it over, I might have just gotten a convertible car seat (we have this one in Onyx for Nat now) from the beginning.
  • Speaking of, a carrier.  Good gracious, a good carrier is a total lifesaver.  C LOVES LOVES LOVES being worn and falls asleep literally within a minute or two and will stay that way for several hours.  At night, sometimes we'll get her to sleep in there (since she basically never falls asleep nursing like Nat did) and then put her down.  We have a Boba (which is great since it has head support for a smaller baby, unlike the Ergo, which needs an infant insert), as well as a Moby (which I loved with Nat because you can nurse while in there, but I need to practice with a smaller baby; plus, it takes longer to put on than the Boba).
  • A strong swaddle blanket.  Our babies get out of swaddle blankets within about 3.4 seconds, no matter how tight we made them.  We love the SwaddleMe blankets (someone kindly gave us this ridiculously adorable owl print) with the Velcro to keep them secure.
    • A wearable blanket.  When we finally stopped swaddling Nat (um, really really late because he totally loved it and asked for it and knew that it meant it was time to sleep), we put him in a "baby in a bag" wearable blanket.  I was worried he would take longer to fall asleep but he did just fine and I think slept better because he was nice and warm and cozy.  We have a winter one of these and totally love it.
  • Sound machine.  You guys, a white noise machine is seriously the biggest baby lifesaver.  It really calms them SO quickly and puts and keeps them asleep.  Plus, we don't worry about a little noise or the baby crying while Nat is sleeping (well, let's be honest, I still do, but unnecessarily).  We have this one.
  • Paci.  Nat never took a paci until he was 6 months old.  But then he loved it.  He stopped getting to use it during the day ages ago, but still gets it for naps and bedtime.  He still naps 2-2.5 hours each day and I am so not willing to give that up (and he needs it).  If that means he has the paci for sleeping until he's 12, then so be it.  He's clearly had no speech delays and I think he'll get rid of it when he's ready.  Kina still doesn't take hers very well, but we'll keep trying.  Oh, and we just use the Soothie kind they give you in the hospital.
  • Diapers.  We use cloth so I can't speak to the kinds of disposable diapers/wipes.  But I CAN say that coconut oil is the best diaper cream / moisturizer / deodorant base there ever was.
  • Some clothes/shoes.  But I don't think you'll have a problem with that.  Oh, and you don't need a million - a week's worth with a few extra onesies is probably sufficient for a bare minimum supply, so you don't have to do laundry all the time.  Oh, and if you live in a place like me where people generally have one or two kids and are done, clothes usually get worn twice and donated.  So what I'm saying is, thrift stores are your friends.
  • Umbrella stroller.  We used our travel system stroller all of twice.  It was just so bulky and I was not willing to carry it AND the baby AND the carseat down all those stairs.  We have a Maclaren Triumph (purchased on Craigslist for around $60) and love it to no end.  It is lightweight and durable and all around fantastic.  Great for travel and even holds (illegally, I should warn you) an infant car seat if needed.
  • Books.  Maybe the most essential of all.

Nice to Have
  • A Pump: This is a "nice to have" for me because I'm not away from C to really make it necessary, and manual expressing isn't the worst.  With Nat, I was in school and pumped most days, but every day, he flat out refused to take a bottle and waited the 3-7 hours for me to come home. So I still have that for C (and she successfully took a bottle last week!). For pumping several times a week, this manual pump was more than sufficient for my needs.  (But I was usually able to get 7-10 ounces in under 10 minutes, so if you have a harder time or need to pump more regularly, you may want to consider an electric pump.)
  • A big ol' diaper bag.  I was vehemently opposed to large diaper bags in the beginning.  And with an infant, you don't need it.  We've loved just using a messenger bag, which is great 6 out of 7 days.  But on Sundays with a TODDLER, I want a big giant bag.  I need to pack activities for Sacrament meeting, as well as lunch (boo hiss afternoon church - ours starts at 1pm, so we usually try to get in a short nap beforehand, so I try to pack actual lunch foods to eat at church). Plus, I need a snack for me.  And cloth diapers take up more space.  So now that my oldest is 2, I'm finally considering getting a big huge diaper bag.
  • A bouncy seat.  Way smaller than a swing, and cheap.  We got ours used for $5.  We never actually used the bouncy part.  But when Nat was little (but older than C), I loved putting him in there in the kitchen while I cooked.  That said, I may get rid of it this time in favor of just putting C in a carrier or on a blanket.
  • "Puptent."  We have a Kidco Peapod little baby tent and it's great for travel.  We have a different model, but here's a similar one (now sold at Target!).  I think you can get cheaper models new for around $60, and we got ours lightly used on eBay for about $35 or so.  It's so lightweight and takes hardly any room, so it's great for trips or even going to others' houses during naptime (rare, but convenient if needed).
  • Changing table.  We had a changing table/dresser combo given to us which has proven pretty useful.  It's nice to have a place for messes.  With C, though, we created a makeshift changing area on top of our dresser in our room so we don't have to go into Nat's to change her at night.  Works just fine.
  • A couple of blankets.  For some reason, people give you a million blankets when you have a baby.  We use about 2 and the rest are sitting in a drawer.
  • Hooded towels.  Cute, yes, but certainly not necessary.

Not for me, Thanks
  • The ubiquitous swing. For us, it's just big and annoying and Nat never really loved it the couple of times he's tried one.  Plus, I really believe babies don't sleep as well when moving, so I generally try to get them accustomed to sleeping without movement (but if you use movement and it works for you and helps keep you sane, then by all means, do it).
  • Travel System.  Like I said, we've used that stroller literally about twice.  Big and bulky and heavy and useless.
  • A mobile.  I'm of the opinion that it just stimulates baby when you want him to sleep, anyway. 
  • Matching bedding.  Cute, I guess, but expensive and generally unnecessary.  You're not supposed to have a blanket in there, anyway, or technically, even bumpers.  We had a bumper at first with Nat (I'm a rebel, I know), but when I finally took it out (after he climbed out of his crib), I realized how much easier it is to change sheets without it there.  So never putting it back. 
  • Boppy Look, I know some people cannot sing enough praises about this thing.  But I tried it once and hated it.  I felt like the support curved down and didn't come close enough under my arms so it didn't have enough of a "shelf."  Plus, there was way too much space on the sides.  If needed in the very early days, I'll use pillows, but even that was for about a day.  After that, I was totally fine and more than comfortable just holding the baby. 
  • Exersaucer Good heavens, am I glad we didn't purchase this.  We borrowed one from a friend and even at 6 months, Nat was over it in a few days.  I was more than happy to give it right back. 
  • Bundle Me.  Even aside from usually being used incorrectly (and dangerously - they're not supposed to be used in car seats while in the car), a blanket works just fine. 
  • Baby Monitor.  Granted, our place is teeny, so we'd hear any screaming babies.  But frankly, I don't want to hear and be concerned about every little nighttime coo, anyway. 
  • High Chair.  We had a booster seat that Nat used from when he started solids (around 6 months, but didn't really start eating much until about 8 or 9) until he started refusing to sit in it anymore (around 20 months).
  • Baby Food Maker.  Are you kidding me?  Blenders or mini preps work just fine, I'd think.  Or, even better - we did baby-led weaning and never needed to blend a thing.  Easy peasy.
  • Baby Bathtub.  Sink works just fine. 

Questions?  Comments?  Do you agree or disagree?

10 comments

  1. I am so greatful for this list! I am about fifteen weeks pregnant with my first and although it's still early, I've already found myself browsing the baby asisles and becoming so overwhelmed. Thanks for providing me a list to start my search!

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  2. What a fun list.

    I do love my boppy, though, because my arms get TIRED holding a baby, I like having a place to rest my book while I nurse, and also, the bobby meant I could nurse while sitting at the desktop computer.

    I do not enjoy bathing my baby in a sink. I'm always worried about hitting their heads on the faucet in a bathroom sink and a kitchen sink kind of gives me the heeby-jeebies. We borrowed a baby tub with Ella and we just bought one for $5 at garage sale for this baby. I just really like them for some reason.

    And my pump was an absolute lifesaver, but I also got a very expensive one paid completely for by my awesome insurance when Ella was born. And she always took a bottle, so I felt like it freed me up a lot more (like if she slept longer than expected, I could just pump before heading out and not worry about trying to squeeze in a nursing session). And I don't think I'm capable of manually expressing.

    We almost never used our carrier with Ella, but I would really like to get one I like for this baby because I think I'll need it a lot more.

    The bouncy seat (given to us by a friend who got it as a handmedown too), is my best friend in the world. She slept in it for the first two months and then even after that occasionally if she wouldn't calm down in her crib. She often preferred being in there to being held.

    And we have that same sound machine. I love love love it.

    And WHY so many blankets? I mean, really. Ella's crib has about fifteen folded under it.

    And. . . now I am done with this ridiculous comment.

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  3. I agree with you on most everything! I think some stuff depends on the baby also. I totally used a "breastfriend" pillow when Easton was little and it made all the difference. He had a lot of nursing issues initially and I just couldn't get everything coordinated without it. Bulky, but it saved my nursing experience (which lasted until he was 18 months so I guess it was worth it!). And Easton was pretty colicky/overly fussy so the swing we borrowed (the way to go because yes, you want to get rid of them asap) from a friend probably kept me out of the mental institution for a few weeks. But definitely not a long-term item, I agree--same with the exersaucer!

    I am a big fan of white noise, I even downloaded an album from itunes that is specifically for babies and I have played it in Easton's room attached to portable speakers since he was days old. The great part is: it's on my iPhone and ipod so we just take it with us easily when we travel. Even in the car stereo on road trips to help him fall asleep!!!!!

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  4. I agree with most of your things. Hello, I went out and promptly bought the noise machine you recommended and now have recommended it to several people. The bundle me came in useful though when I would run with the stroller as Alex likes to push off blankets. If I had to do it over again too I would skip the infant carseat I think.

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  6. Bookmarking this for my future! What great tips!

    <3 Cambria
    jupefashion.blogspot.com

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  7. Great tips!
    -Melanie

    P.S. I’m doing a $50 Shabby Apple giveaway on my blog. You should check it out here: http://meandmr.com/post/35113285949/shabby-apple-50-giveaway

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  8. love this list! i agree with so much of it. we bought practically nothing for Bronson and were totally fine with the hand me down items we were given (plus the baby shower gifts). i had a small hand pump (given to us by the hospital)that was great but like you, i could hand express all the milk he needed if worst came to worse (i make milk like it's going out of style ... convenient but crazy too). newborns really are pretty low maintenance stuff wise. the only thing i really used all the time was our stroller (a hand me down from my sister). i love having such generous people in my life!

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  9. Thank you for this comprehensive list. So many money-saving tips. Love them.

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