Baby must-haves: A checklist for the first year

Baby must-haves: A checklist for the first year

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Babies need stuff – and lots of it! Use our checklist of baby must-haves to stock up on necessities for the newborn period to age 1. You may also want to consider our list of nice-to-have items that can make day-to-day life with your baby a little easier.

Baby clothes

Baby clothes are usually sized by age, but since brands can vary in their sizing, look for clothes that also list weight or height guidelines to help you find the best fit.

Some babies go straight to 3 months and never need newborn sizes, but that's hard to predict in advance, so it doesn't hurt to have some newborn items on your baby checklist. Also make sure you have a couple of outfits in the next size up before your child actually needs it – babies grow quickly! Buying secondhand clothes and accepting hand-me-downs are good ways to make sure you'll always have many size options to choose from.

In general, think comfort and ease. Look for soft, roomy, durable clothing. Choose well-made items that will hold up through frequent washings. Also, avoid clothing that has dangling strings, tassels, and ribbons – these are choking hazards.

Organic baby clothing is made without harsh dyes or potentially harmful chemicals, but it's usually more expensive. Whatever you choose, use a gentle, baby-friendly laundry detergent to prevent skin irritation.

Below are the clothing basics your baby will need for the first three months. You can use this list again to replenish your baby's wardrobe as he outgrows his clothes during the first year.

  • Bodysuits or "onesies" (7 to 10): These are basically jammies that are appropriate for both sleeping and playing. Onesies are super convenient, especially at first, because newborns nap so frequently. Look for ones that zip or snap down the front and all the way down the leg – they offer easy access for diaper changes and allow you to do them without completely undressing your baby.
    You may want to pick onesies with snaps at the neck or a stretchy "envelope" neckline – you'll be able to slip them easily over your child's head during clothing changes. The envelope neckline also comes in handy after a diaper blow-out because you can pull the soiled onesie down instead of over your child's head.
  • Leggings or stretchy pants (5 to 7): These make it easy to change one piece of dirty clothing without having to switch the whole outfit. An elastic waistband fits easily over your baby's diaper and belly – and expands as she gains weight.
  • Shirts (5 to 7): You'll need a few short- and long-sleeved tops with stretchy necklines to pair with leggings and pants.
  • Outer layers (3 to 5): Look for zip-up sweaters, fleece jackets, and sweatshirts that are easy to put on and take off. Fleece jumpsuits are also cozy and warm, and easily slip over everything else. Buy larger sizes and items with loose armholes that won't require tugging and fussing.
    Hoods are helpful at this age because you can just slip one over your baby's head when the temperature is chilly.
  • Hats (2) and mittens (2 pair): A broad-brimmed sun hat for sunny days and a warm hat that covers the ears in the winter should do the trick. Mittens for babies are shaped like bags with elastic at the wrist, making them easy to get on and off little hands.
  • Socks or booties (5 to 7): Ask any parent and they'll tell you that baby socks and booties have a unique way of disappearing into thin air, especially when you're out and about. Keep your socks and booties on the inexpensive side, since you'll probably need to replace lost ones more than once.
  • Pajamas or nightgowns (5 to 7): When dressing your baby for bed, keep in mind three things: your baby's safety, her comfort, and how easily you'll be able to change the inevitable middle-of-the-night dirty diaper. No matter how cute it looks, avoid sleepwear that has a lot of snaps or is otherwise difficult to get on and off. Some parents prefer nightgowns for newborns, others like the flexibility of being able to switch a damp pair of pj bottoms without changing the top.
    Soft, breathable natural fabrics like cotton are comfy, and, if they fit snugly, they're a good alternative to synthetic, flame-resistant clothing (usually made of polyester). Avoid ribbons, strings, ties, and other decorative items that could get wrapped around your baby and pose a choking hazard.

Nice-to-have clothing extras

  • Special outfits (1 or 2): You may want a dress-up outfit or two for festive occasions, such as a wedding or holiday, or a fun costume for Halloween. Many parents also enjoy dressing their child in a special outfit for photo sessions.
    Since it's hard to predict what size your baby will be wearing very far in advance, you may want to hold off on purchasing special clothes until the event is closer.
  • Shoes: Itty-bitty shoes are adorable, but you may not need to buy real, hard-soled shoes during your baby's first year. Some experts recommend waiting until your child is a strong walker, because shoes can interfere with development.
  • Leg warmers: Super cute with dresses, these add a layer of warmth and don't have to come off during diaper changes.
  • Hair accessories: Totally unnecessary, but so adorable. Even if your baby has little to no hair, a colorful hairband or bow will amp up the cute factor. Make sure the hair accessory isn't too tight or scratchy, though.
  • Diaper covers: If your baby is wearing dresses or goes pants-free in the summer, an attractive cover to wear over diapers adds a nice touch.


  • Diapers: Whether you use cloth, disposable, or something in between (like a diaper with a disposable lining and reusable cover), your baby probably will go through 10 to 12 diapers a day at first, so plan accordingly. If you use disposables, you might want to start with small packs of a few different kinds in case certain types irritate your baby's skin or don't fit well.
    Some parents planning to use cloth diapers still rely on disposables for the first few days or so, until after their baby has finished passing the meconium (that thick, sticky, greenish black poop that makes up their first stool). And many parents who use cloth diapers switch to disposables when traveling.
  • Diaper pail: To keep smells at bay, choose an airtight pail that seals and stores dirty disposable diapers until you're ready to throw them out.
    If you're using cloth diapers, consider a lidded diaper pail with a washable liner. (Learn about other cloth diaper pail options.)
  • Wipes and diaper cream: Whether you plan to buy wipes, make your own wipes, or use a washcloth and warm water, have plenty on hand so you're prepared. Unscented wipes can be less irritating to your baby's skin. You'll also want to keep a diaper cream on hand, in case your baby's bottom needs special attention at some point.
  • Backpack or tote: Get a bag that's big enough to tote diapers, wipes, an extra change of clothes for your baby, bottles (if you're using them), and a couple of little toys. Consider the weight of the bag (make sure it's not already heavy when it's empty) and its options for organizing all the baby stuff.
    Some diaper bags have waterproof linings, changing pads, and insulated compartments, and some are made specifically to strap onto a stroller.
  • Changing pad: You'll probably want to designate a place for diaper changes. Some parents use a changing pad on a low dresser or put a towel on the floor or bed. (Keep your hand on your baby at all times when changing on an elevated surface.)

Nice-to-have diapering extras

  • Baby wipes warmer: Warm wipes can help ease the surprise of a cold wipe on a bare tushie, especially in the middle of the night.
  • Changing table: You can plop a changing pad or towel onto just about any place for diaper changes, but a changing table does make the task more comfortable for whoever's on diaper duty.
  • Diaper sprayer: This accessory can be a godsend if you're using cloth diapers. It hooks up to your toilet's water supply line and allows you to rinse poop from a diaper into the toilet. Be sure that your plumbing can accommodate a sprayer before you buy one.

Baby gear

  • Baby carrier: Wearing your baby means your little one gets to snuggle close to you, and you'll have two free hands to do everything else.
    When choosing a baby carrier, make sure all straps and harnesses support your baby securely. It's also a good idea to find one that can be laundered or cleaned easily.
    Note: Although many parents swear by slings, this type of baby carrier has been linked to injuries and suffocation in babies. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has safety tips for parents using slings.
  • Stroller: You'll need an efficient way to take your baby around town. Think about your specific needs: Do you want storage space to make shopping with your baby easier? Do you want a seat that reclines for easy napping? Will you be climbing up and down a lot of stairs? Do you want to go for long walks or running with your baby? Choosing the right stroller can make your life a lot easier.
  • Car seat: A safe car seat is mandatory. Tempting as it may be, resist buying a used car seat. Safety regulations have changed over the years, and you need one that meets all current guidelines. Also, you may not know if a secondhand seat has been in an accident and should no longer be used.
    Most car seats produced today have a label with an expiration date printed on it, and they're usually considered safe for five to eight years. Manufacturers won't honor warranties on an expired seat, and there's a good chance the seat will no longer have current safety features by the time it expires. Always check the expiration date when shopping for a new car seat.
  • A car seat cover or blanket: When it's cold in the car, place a blanket or car seat cover over your baby to warm him up. It's not safe for your baby to wear a large, puffy coat while in the car seat, because a thick jacket can prevent the harness from being effectively tightened.
  • Sunshades for the car windows: Shades help to protect your baby's eyes and skin from the glare of the sun.

Nice-to-have baby gear extras

  • Baby backpack: Once your baby can hold her head up well for an extended period – at about 5 or 6 months – you might want to invest in a baby backpack, especially if you're a hiker or traveler. The high perch lets her see the world, and you can more easily negotiate stairs and stores since your hands are free.
  • Portable crib or play yard: A folding, portable crib or play yard can come in handy in all sorts of situations. Use it for overnights at Grandma's or as a safe, contained place for your baby to play at home or while traveling. Many play yards come with a built-in diaper changing table, a removable bassinet, and even a mobile.
  • Stroller sack: If you live in a cold climate, these sleeping-bag-like sacks can help keep your baby warm when you're out and about with the stroller.
  • Stroller rain cover: This clear plastic cover drapes over your stroller and shields your child from wind and rain.
  • Infant floor seat: Designed for babies with good head control (usually around 4 months of age), these soft foam chairs are molded to support infants in a seated position on the floor. If you need to do chores, you can park your baby in the seat as you bustle around the room.
  • Rocking chair or glider: A comfy place for you to rock your baby comes in handy during all those night wakings and feedings in your baby's first year. Down the road, it's a cozy place to snuggle and read bedtime stories.


  • Crib and mattress: Many new parents don't need a crib right away, choosing to use a bassinet or play yard with a bassinet feature instead. But you'll likely want to move your baby into a crib after she outgrows the bassinet, so it's helpful to buy one ahead of time and have it set up.
    New cribs meet the latest safety standards, but secondhand cribs may be dangerously out of date. The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends that you not use cribs older than 10 years or cribs that are broken or modified.
    If you buy a used crib, look for a sturdy crib with slats that aren't too far apart – no more than 2 3/8 inches (about the size of a soda can). Avoid drop-side cribs, which have caused dozens of baby deaths and have been banned in the United States since 2011. Make sure your baby's mattress fits snugly in the crib.
  • Bedding: You'll see plenty of fancy bedding sets in baby stores, but all you really need are three to five fitted crib sheets and a couple of washable crib mattress pads. (You'll want one extra for middle-of-the-night changes.) Some are waterproof. The bumpers, pillows, quilts, and soft blankets that often come with baby bedding sets shouldn't go in your baby's crib because they increase the risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation.
  • Wearable blankets (2 or 3): These fleece or cotton sacks zip over your baby's sleepwear and keep him warm at night. They replace traditional blankets, which aren't safe for sleeping babies because of the risk of SIDS. You may or may not need these, depending on the climate where you live and what season your baby's born in.
    Note: Some wearable blankets are also designed for swaddling, with flaps that fold over your baby's arms and secure with Velcro.
  • Swaddling blankets (5 or 6): Many newborns love to be swaddled, and having a few blankets made just for this purpose can make your life much easier. Swaddling blankets can also double as all-purpose blankets – for covering your baby while you're breastfeeding, for example.
  • Baby monitor: This gadget comes with a transmitter and at least one receiver, and allows you to keep tabs on your baby while you're in another room. The transmitter needs to be close enough to your baby's crib to pick up sounds (within 10 feet) but far enough away to ensure that the cord's out of reach, if there is one. You can choose a basic audio model or a more expensive video monitor.

Nice-to-have sleeping extras

  • Nightlight: It's a soothing beacon in a dark room, and it provides just enough light for midnight diaper changes when you want to keep the lighting as dim as possible for your groggy baby.
  • White-noise machine: Many babies sleep better, or fall asleep more easily, with white noise droning in the background.

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding

  • Nursing or feeding pillow: These are specially designed to support your baby while you're nursing or bottle-feeding, and they can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck. Nursing pillows are more convenient – and better at keeping your baby in position – than regular pillows.
  • Burp cloths (6 to 12): Lightweight cloths (or cloth diapers) catch spit-up and wipe up other baby fluids.
  • Bibs (8 to 10): Even before your baby is eating solids, it's handy to have a little bib to keep his clothes dry, especially if he's a drooler or spitter.

Breastfeeding supplies

  • Lanolin ointment: Available in many drugstores, this ointment can relieve sore nipples.
  • Nursing bras (2 to 3): Don't try to make do with your regular bras. Your breasts have changed, so you'll need a different fit to be comfortable. And nursing bras allow your baby easy access at feeding time.
  • Breast pads: It's normal for your breasts to leak while you're nursing, and breast pads – disposable or reusable ones – will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.
  • Breast pump: You may want to pump breast milk to feed your baby or relieve engorgement. Breast pumps can be as simple as a basic hand pump or as efficient as an electric model that allows you to pump from both breasts simultaneously. One popular style comes in a backpack with a small cooler to store milk.
    Our breast pump guide can help you decide which type to go with and whether to rent or buy.
  • Breast milk bags: You can pump milk straight into a bottle, but many women use specially made plastic storage bags, which don't take up much space in the freezer and can be defrosted easily. The number of bags you'll need depends on how often you plan to pump. Start with one box and buy more when you need them.
  • Nursing cover: If you prefer to be covered while nursing outside the home, a cover slips easily over you and your baby. Some nursing covers even double as an infant car seat cover.

Bottle-feeding supplies

  • Bottles (6 to 12): Newborns usually start with the 4-ounce size, but you'll need some 8-ounce bottles as your child begins to drink more. You'll also need at least as many nipples as bottles.
    When it comes to which kind of baby bottle to use, some parents prefer glass or stainless steel bottles to avoid possible chemical leaching from plastic bottles. To learn more about the risks and recommendations, see our article on how to buy bottles and nipples.
  • Formula: If you aren't breastfeeding, you have lots of infant formula options to choose from – check out our formula primer and talk to your provider. Stock up with enough formula for a few weeks.
  • Bottle brushes (2): These are handy for thoroughly scrubbing small parts and crevices in bottles, bottle parts, and nipples.
  • Insulated bottle carrier: You can buy insulated carriers for one bottle or for half a dozen bottles. Use one to keep bottles and/or breast milk warm or cool when you're on the go.

Nice-to-have bottle- and breastfeeding extras

  • Bottle-drying rack: A rack is handy for drying bottles as well as nipples, pacifiers, teethers, and sippy cups.
  • Dishwasher basket: These are handy for keeping track of small items (like bottle parts) in the dishwasher.
  • Bottle sterilizer: You can soak bottles (and other supplies) in boiling water to disinfect them, but some parents find a sterilizer – which uses steam to disinfect – handy. Some are electric and some you pop in the microwave.
  • Bottle warmer: You can use a bowl full of warm water to heat bottles of breast milk or formula, but a bottle warmer is more convenient.
  • Warm or cold gel packs (3 to 4): These fit inside your bra and can soothe swollen or sore breasts. When you need to take breast milk or formula to-go, tuck the cold packs into an insulated bag.

Feeding solids

When your baby is ready for solid food, somewhere between 4 and 6 months of age, these feeding supplies can make the transition easier.

  • Highchair: You can buy a freestanding highchair, a seat that hooks onto a counter or table, or a portable highchair or booster that attaches to a regular chair. But a full-size highchair with a tray is easy to clean, and wheels make moving the chair around easy. Look for a model with a seat cover that you can remove and throw in the washing machine, because you can count on food getting mushed into every crack.
  • Bowls (2 to 3): Some parents like baby bowls with suction cups on the bottom that stick to the highchair tray (so they can't be flung to the floor easily). Suction or no suction, make sure they're unbreakable.
  • Baby spoons (3 to 5): A rubber-tipped or plastic spoon is easier on your baby's gums and small enough to fit comfortably into a little mouth.
  • Sippy cups (3 to 5): These cups come with a lid and a spout for easy drinking – and they don't spill when knocked over. Cups with handles will probably be easiest for your child to manage at first.
    If you're concerned about BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals in plastics, there are plenty of alternatives, including reusable metal water bottles small enough for a baby's hands.
  • Waterproof bibs (5 to 10): Quick-drying bibs are useful, as are bibs with a pocket at the bottom to catch falling food.

Nice-to-have extras for feeding solids

  • Mess mat: Place one under the highchair to protect your flooring and make cleanup easier.
  • Baby food mill or other baby food maker: These make converting some of your dinner to your baby's dinner an easy task.


  • Baby bathtub: The kitchen sink works fine at first for bathing your baby, but you might want to move your baby to an infant tub before too long. Choose one that's sturdy and well made. Many baby bathtubs are designed for the newborn period to age 1.
  • Soap and shampoo: Look for no-tears formulas that are easier on your baby's skin and eyes. Choose brands that don't list "fragrance" as an ingredient if you want to avoid phthalates in your baby's shampoo or soap. (Manufacturers aren't required to list phthalates separately, so they're often included with the fragrance ingredients.)
  • Infant bath towels (2 to 3): Regular bath towels are often too big to use on a baby. A soft, hooded towel works well for wrapping up your baby and drying him after his bath.
  • Washcloths (4 to 6): You can always find uses for baby washcloths – put one on the bottom of the tub to keep your baby from sliding around, or use one to wipe her off after eating. If you also use washcloths for diaper changes, designate one color for those so you can keep them separate.

Nice-to-have bathing extras

  • Bath thermometer: This isn't strictly necessary if you're comfortable testing bath water with your elbow, but if you're unsure, a thermometer might be worth investing in.
  • Bath toys: Toys that float and engage your child in water play as she gets older can make bath time even more fun. Household items (plastic measuring cups, little strainers) are great fun, but your child might appreciate a few toys made especially for bath play too.

Baby soothers, toys, and entertainment

  • Pacifiers (3 to 5): Some babies love them, some don't. Pacifiers aren't a necessity by any means, but for some parents and babies soothers are essential.
  • Bouncy seat: These baby seats bounce up and down when your little one kicks or moves. It's a handy, safe place to put your baby down (thanks to the attached straps), and many babies love the motion. Be sure to place the bouncy seat on the floor, not on a table or counter, and don't let your baby sleep in it. If he does fall asleep in the bouncer, move him to his crib as soon as you can.
  • Toys: Your baby doesn't need a lot of fancy playthings, but it's nice to have a few rattles, musical toys, and soft toys.
  • Books: Chunky board books are a fine way to introduce reading to your baby. Washable cloth or vinyl books are a good bet for wee ones too.

Nice-to-have baby entertainment extras

  • Mobile: A brightly colored mobile is great entertainment for a newborn. Check it out from below (like your baby will), rather than from the side. Some will play music too. Remove the mobile once your baby is sitting, so he doesn't pull it down and hurt himself.
  • Baby swing: Another favorite for babies who love to be moving, freestanding swings provide rhythmic motion. Some are electric, some battery-powered, some have head-to-toe swinging, and others rock side to side. A good baby swing can be super helpful when you need to prepare a meal or take a break.
  • Play mat (activity gym): These are soft mats with baby toys that dangle from overhead. Babies who aren't mobile yet can have a ball batting at the toys. Fancy versions feature lights and sounds.
  • Play saucer (activity center): Play saucers keep older babies propped up safely in one place while they grab and manipulate various attached toys. Some babies love saucers, others don't, so let yours have a test run before you purchase one. Saucers can be used from about 4 to 12 months of age.
  • Toy box or basket: A box will keep things out of sight when put away, but be sure it doesn't have a lid that will slam on little fingers once your baby gets old enough to retrieve her own toys. Baskets allow for easy pickup. You might put one in each room your baby plays in.


As soon as your child is rolling, crawling, or toddling around, you'll need to be aware of the biggest household dangers so you can childproof your home.

A few pieces of safety equipment can help protect your baby from many common hazards:

  • Safety gates: If you have stairs, invest in safety gates for the top and bottom. You can also use a gate to block off areas of the house that might be perilous, such as the bathroom or kitchen.
  • Outlet covers: Exposed outlets are an almost irresistible attraction to curious explorers. Bottom line: Keep them covered.
  • Cupboard and drawer latches: Choose from several types, including ones that latch or twist open and closed. Tug at them to make sure they can withstand numerous tries by a determined toddler.
  • Toilet seat locks: Babies can drown in as little as 2 inches of water, so keep your baby and his toys out of the toilet with a lock. The lock fastens on top of a closed seat and requires you to press a button or undo a latch to open it.
  • Anti-tip straps and wall anchors: These will keep your baby from pulling the television and furniture over, once she's toddling around the house.


  • First-aid kit: From a digital thermometer to tweezers, see what to keep in your first-aid kit.
  • Bulb syringe: Use with saline drops to clear your baby's stuffy nose.
  • Teething toys: Chewing on a ring made of firm rubber can ease your baby's discomfort during teething.
  • Humidifier: Running a humidifier in the room where your baby sleeps can help ease congestion. Because it adds moisture to the air, it can also help with dry, chapped skin. Be sure to clean the machine often, as directed, so you don't introduce mold into the air.
  • Baby nail scissors, clippers, nail file, or emery board: These help you trim and smooth your baby's nails safely.
  • Baby-friendly laundry detergent: Some brands are specially formulated to be gentle on baby skin, although brands for sensitive skin are fine too.
  • Soft-bristled baby hair brush: This is especially helpful for handling cradle cap.

Learn more

Watch the video: BABY MUST HAVES!!! FOR THE FIRST YEAR (June 2022).


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