Newborn Baby Essentials: The Ultimate Checklist

There’s a lot to think about as you prepare for your baby’s arrival, but once you have all the newborn baby essentials you need for the first three months or so, you’ll feel more prepared for the day you bring your baby girl or boy home. Use this new baby checklist to discover what you may still need for the nursery, as well as what other things you may need including must-have clothing items, bath time essentials, and much more.

Baby Nursery Checklist

To help you get your baby’s nursery ready, here’s a list of essential items you may need for the room where your newborn baby sleeps and/or plays:

Cot. When it comes to baby essentials, this one comes right at the top of this list. Your baby will need a safe cot to sleep in. If you’re buying a new cot, look for British Standard mark BS EN 716-1 to made sure it complies with UK safety standards. If you’re borrowing a cot or using one that’s handed down from an older sibling or cousin, it’s still recommended to replace the mattress with a new one. If you’ll be using a second-hand cot it’s important to check that it meets the latest safety standards – ask your midwife for advice if you’re unsure. Also, check that there are no broken or missing parts.

Cot mattress. You’ll need a firm mattress for your baby. It should be clean and waterproof, and it must fit the cot perfectly (with no spaces around the edge) so there’s no danger of your baby’s head becoming trapped. A mattress is one essential item it’s better to buy new for your baby. That way it’s guaranteed to be clean and free of allergens such as dust mites. After all, it’s going to come in for lots of use: Initially your newborn could be snoozing up 18 hours a day in his or her cot.

Bedding. You won’t need much bedding, just some sheets and baby sleeping bag or light blanket for warmth (depending on the weather and the temperature of the room where your baby sleeps). If you use a light blanket always make sure it’s tucked in securely below your baby’s shoulder level. It’s worth having at least four sheets, because you could be changing them frequently. In the first year, keep your baby’s cot free of toys, cot bumpers and any other bedding, especially pillows and duvets, to reduce the risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Bassinet, carrycot or Moses basket. A bassinet, carrycot or Moses basket can be handy in the first three months or so, although they’re not strictly an essential item as you won’t be using these for very long anyway. Nevertheless, there are lovely bassinets out there, and they do have the benefit of being small and portable so they can more easily fit in your room, as well as be moved from room to room should you want your baby to sleep near you wherever you are in the home. Keep in mind, baby nests are not considered safe for your infant to sleep in while you’re not watching over him or her, as they post a risk of suffocation.

Baby monitor. A baby monitor can help you keep an eye (or perhaps just an ear) on your baby even when you’re not in the same room. With today’s technology you can opt for anything from a basic listening device to advanced models that send a live image of your little one to your mobile phone over Wi-Fi. There are plenty of additional functions to choose from too: Some baby monitors can measure and display the temperature in your baby’s room; others can double as a night light and sound machine. Some baby monitors also offer two-way audio, allowing you to talk directly to your child via the baby unit. Think about what features you’d like when making your choice of baby monitor.

Night light. You’ll be moving around in the middle of the night to feed your newborn, change nappies and even just to check on your little one. A night light lets you see where you’re going and what you’re doing without having to turn on the main light. As your little one gets older, a night light might also provide reassurance when he or she wakes up in the middle of the night.

Humidifier. A humidifier helps moisturise the air. Your doctor or midwife may recommend getting one for the nursey if the air is particularly dry. You might also want to add this to your list of baby essentials if your baby has a skin condition like eczema, which can get worse in very dry air. A little extra moisture in the air may also help reduce congestion if your baby has a cold.

Clothes storage. Even with just the essentials, your newborn’s clothes will need to be stored somewhere. In some cases, the drawers or shelves that come with the changing table may be enough. Alternatively, you can even use baskets or tubs to organise clothes. Chests of drawers or wardrobes are another great option. Always make sure free-standing furniture like cupboards and shelving units are properly secured to the wall to prevent toppling accidents, as a part of your babyproofing.

Rocking chair, armchair or recliner. A comfy chair in the nursery is the perfect spot for breastfeeding or bottle feeding, a bedtime story or lullaby and a last cuddle before sleep. It may help make night-time feeds less disruptive for your baby, and – if you choose a rocking chair – the gentle swaying motion could help calm your newborn.

Dummy. Your newborn may want to suck to soothe him or herself. Some babies don’t go through this phase at all, some might suck their thumb or finger and others find comfort in a dummy. If your baby falls into the latter category, keep in mind that dummies have a way of going missing, so you may like to have a few on hand. If you intend to breastfeed, experts advise waiting until your baby’s feeding pattern is established (usually after around four weeks) before introducing the dummy. Talk to your midwife or health visitor about the pros and cons of using a dummy. Never give your baby a dummy with a neck cord, to avoid the risk of strangulation.

Toy box or basket. Sooner or later your baby will probably start to accumulate toys, and it's handy to have somewhere to keep them. This is optional, of course! If you have shelves already, you can also store toys on the higher shelves.

Baby Playtime Essentials

You have lots of options when it comes to toys and items that will engage your little one and help with his or her learning and development. Here are some things you could buy for your baby, or include on your baby shower registry:

Baby swing. Besides being fun, the swaying movement of a baby swing can help soothe your infant. A baby swing shouldn’t be confused with a bouncer, which uses the force of your baby’s legs to create movement. (Bouncers are not recommended to be used for more than 20 minutes a day, as they can delay the development of walking skills.) Depending on the type, you either manually push a baby swing gently by hand (or foot), or buy a battery-operated model that has various sway or vibration settings. Make sure you choose one that will suit your newborn’s size and age, and keep in mind that experts advise against letting your infant sleep in a baby swing.

Play mat. Newborns benefit from a little tummy time each day. Place a thin, soft play mat on the floor to give your child somewhere to enjoy a few minutes of tummy time a couple of times a day. Always closely supervise your baby during tummy time.

Playpen. When your baby starts to crawl, or even earlier, a playpen can provide a safe enclosed space for your newborn to play in while you do things nearby. A portable playpen is great because you can move it around your home depending on which room you’re in. Take care not to place a playpen (or your baby’s cot) near windows, the cords of curtains or blinds, or any unsecured electric cables. In fact, it’s always safest to secure these or tie them up so they are completely out of reach of your baby whether he or she is in the playpen or not.

Simple toys. Newborns and very young babies won't enjoy more complex toys just yet, but simple toys like rattles or books with high contrast patterns are great for the first three months. Before long, soft toys that make sounds, stacking toys, push-pull toys, and busy boxes with lots of exciting features can be good choices to help entertain your baby and support his or her development. With all baby toys it’s important to observe the age limits marked on packaging and ensure there are no small parts that could be a choking hazard.

A mobile. A colourful mobile (that's safely hung high up, out of reach of your baby) will help entertain your baby. A mobile with a variety of shapes and bright colours is a good option. Just make sure it’s visually stimulating from underneath – not just from the side – as that is where your baby will spend the most time looking at it from. There are many types of mobiles available; some are designed to go over the cot while others are design to be placed over your baby’s play mat.

Baby Feeding Essentials

Whether you plan to breastfeed or bottle feed, or both, here’s a list of the essentials you’ll need:

Burp cloths. Sometimes your baby will bring up a little milk when you wind him or her during or after feeding. This is known as reflux. Don’t worry, it’s very common and usually harmless. A specially designed burp cloth or just a clean muslin square placed strategically on your shoulder or on your lap can protect your clothing and provide a hygienic surface for your little one to rest his or her head. It’s worth having plenty of these handy, as your baby will be feeding a lot – perhaps as often as once an hour in the first few days.

Breastfeeding cover. A breastfeeding cover is a cape-like garment that helps cover you and your baby – for warmth and privacy – while you are breastfeeding. It typically comes with a strap you can tie around your neck to help keep it in place.

Feeding cushion. For some extra comfort for both you and your baby, consider getting a V-shaped or U-shaped feeding cushion. These help to support your newborn during feeds while freeing up your hands.

Bibs. Bibs can help protect your child’s clothes from milk, formula and dribble. It’s worth buying several of these, or buy a multi-pack so you always have a fresh one on hand.

Formula milk. If you’re expecting to feed your baby with formula, for at least the first six months he or she needs what’s known as first infant formula (or first milk), unless your midwife, health visitor or doctor advises you otherwise.

Breast pump. You can use a manual pump or an electric (mains or battery-powered) one to express breast milk for when it’s needed, such as if you return to work or if you’ll be away from your newborn for longer stretches. Some models pump both breasts at the same time to save time.

Milk storage pots or bags. If you’re using a breast pump, you’ll need some containers in which to freeze or store your breast milk. Storage pots are often reusable, but they’ll need to be sterilised before each use. Storage bags are often one-time use products and may come already sterile in their packaging. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before use.

Feeding bottles and teats. Whether you plan to breastfeed or formula feed, some baby bottles are a must. They come in various shapes and sizes, with different shapes of teat to choose from. It might help to try out a few to see which one you and your baby prefer, but also keep in mind that choosing a bottle that’s easy to wash and sterilise could make life easier. Some feeding bottles come with a special insert or valve to reduce the amount of air your newborn swallows, which may help to relieve colic.

Bottle warmer. It can be tricky to get your baby’s stored breast milk or formula at just the right temperature. Don’t be tempted to pop it in the microwave – that can cause hotspots that might burn your baby’s mouth. Standing the bottle in a jug or bowl of warm water is one tried and tested method, but for maximum convenience a bottle warmer can help ensure the milk is evenly warmed. Some warmers also have a setting for defrosting frozen breast milk, and some models can also be used to sterilize bottles and teats.

Bottle sterilising gear. If you’re using bottles, there are various options for sterilising them (and your breast pump, if you use one). One is to use a cold-water sterilising solution in a container that’s designed to keep everything completely submerged in the solution. Other devices can use steam or boiling water to keep your feeding equipment germ-free. Another type of bottle steriliser goes in the microwave oven. To help you decide, consider how frequently you’ll be using the sterilised items, as well as how big and well-equipped your kitchen (or the room you’ll be doing the sterilising in) is. For example, if you only use bottles occasionally for expressed milk when travelling, a cold-water solution might be enough. On the other hand – if you think you’ll need to sterilise regularly – you might not have extra space on your kitchen counter for a separate steamer, so you may prefer to go for one that works with your microwave. Alternatively, if you have the room and think you’ll get lots of use out of it, a dedicated sterilisier may be the best option for you.

Bottle brush. This will help you thoroughly clean the inside of the bottle, which can be hard to reach with just a sponge.

Bottle-drying rack. This is not an essential item, but it can help if you’d like a designated space to dry your baby’s bottles or if you don’t tend to have much room left on your dish-drying rack.

Newborn checklist

Nappy Changing Checklist

Here is a comprehensive list of the essential items you’ll need for changing your baby’s nappy:

Changing table. You’ll need a safe space for changing your baby’s nappy. Changing tables often have drawers or shelves so that you can reach things like nappies, wipes and clean clothes without taking your hand off your baby. Just make sure these items aren’t within your newborn’s reach. Some changing tables come with raised sides or a strap you can use to help secure your baby and prevent falls if he or she rolls over unexpectedly. Even if you've fastened the strap, always keep at least one hand on your little one whenever he or she is on a raised surface.

Changing mat. A changing mat can help keep your baby more comfortable on the changing table and make it easier to keep the changing table clean. Some can be wiped clean, while others have removable covers you can machine wash.

Nappies. You’ll definitely need nappies, and lots of them! Your newborn will go through dozens of nappies a week. It’s impossible to know ahead of time what size nappy your newborn baby will need, so it’s worth buying small packs of a few different sizes to go in your hospital bag. Then, once your baby is born, you can purchase more of the right size. Find out how to choose the right size of nappy.

Wipes. Gentle, non-scented, alcohol-free wipes like Pampers New Baby Sensitive can be great for cleaning your baby’s nappy area during changes.

Barrier cream. It’s not uncommon for babies to get nappy rash from time to time. Applying a thin layer of barrier cream can help protect your little one’s sensitive skin and help the rash to clear up. Ask your midwife or health visitor for advice on which cream or ointment is best.

Nappy bin. You’ll want somewhere to throw your baby’s dirty nappies to help contain the odours. This could be a foot-operated household waste bin with a liner and a closing lid, or a specially designed nappy bin. If you do buy a purpose-made nappy bin, make sure that any special inserts or liners it needs are readily available in your area or online.

Baby Clothing Essentials

It’s fun to shop for (or be given) adorable, mini size baby clothes. Keep in mind that newborns quickly grow out of smaller-sized clothes — sometimes in a matter of days — so you may prefer to buy bigger sizes that your newborn can grow into. You’ll probably keep adding to your child’s wardrobe as he or she grows, but here’s a list of the minimum you’ll probably need in the first few weeks:

Babygrows. If you’re using them day and night, you’ll need at least six babygrows, also known as stretch suits or sleep suits. Alternatively, you could have four or more babygrows handy for daytime use and a couple of baby nighties for sleeping. If it’s cold, combine the nighty with socks or bootees.

Cardigans. The best way to keep your baby warm is to use several layers of light clothing, so having a couple of cardigans in your baby’s wardrobe is really useful. Ideally, they should be lightweight and made of natural fibres like wool or cotton.

Vests. Make sure you’ve got at least four of these undergarments for an extra layer of cosiness when needed.

Socks or bootees. You’ll need lots of socks or bootees. Your newborn doesn’t need real shoes yet — these won't be necessary until after he or she starts walking.

Sun hat. You’ll need a hat with a wide brim to protect your baby’s delicate skin when it’s sunny.

Wool or cotton hat. If it will be cold when your baby is born, have one of these on hand to ensure his or her head is kept nice and warm when you go out.

Mittens. Great for keeping your little one’s fingers warm in the cooler months.

Optional special outfit. If there's a holiday or special occasion coming up, you might like a nice outfit for your newborn. Just keep in mind that your baby will soon grow out of whatever he or she is wearing, so take lots of pictures while you can!

Baby Bath Time Essentials

You don’t need to give your newborn baby a bath every day (although you can if he or she really enjoys it) – every three days or so is usually enough. Between bath days it’s OK to just ‘top and tail’ your infant by carefully washing his or her face and nappy area. Here’s a checklist of the essential items you’ll need for bath time (or topping and tailing) in the first few months:

Baby bath. This might be a specifically designed baby bath or just a clean washing-up bowl or tub. Just make sure it works for newborns or that it comes with a newborn insert to suit your baby’s small size.

Cotton wool. Dipped in warm water, this is great for cleaning your baby’s face (and nappy area when topping and tailing).

Cup. A plastic scoop or cup can be used to gently pour water over your baby’s hair or skin.

Towels. Buy some soft towels. Some come with a hood for easier drying.

Washcloths. These can help with gently wiping your baby.

Emollient cream. A newborn doesn't usually need any soaps or special lotions – plain water is recommended for bathing your baby – but if there are drier patches of skin you can apply an emollient-based cream. Read more about how to take care of your baby’s skin.

Baby necessities

On-the-Go Essentials Checklist

You might be surprised by how much you need when you take your newborn out. Here is a checklist of all the gear you might need when you’re out and about with your baby:

Car seat. Your newborn baby is only allowed to travel in a car in a rear-facing baby car seat, including that first ride home from the hospital. It’s important to choose a seat that’s suitable for your baby’s age, size and weight and is compatible with your car. It’s best to buy from a retailer that will let you try fitting several seats in your car before deciding which one is for you.

Pushchair and/or pram. There’s a wide choice of pushchairs, from ultra-lightweight and ‘umbrella fold’ models to all-terrain, jogging pushchairs and travel systems with multiple attachments including car seat baby carriers and detachable Moses baskets. Check that the pushchair meets the latest safety standards, and keep in mind that only prams or pushchairs with a seat that can be set to a completely flat position are suitable for your newborn until he or she can sit up unassisted.

Baby carrier. These are super for keeping your baby close as you move around, while also leaving you with your hands free. Baby carriers come in several styles, including wraps, slings, front packs and backpacks. Keep in mind that some baby carriers may need to be worn differently, or with different inserts, depending on the age and size of your baby. You’ll also need to make sure your baby is positioned correctly so that your baby’s hips and neck get the right support and placement. Your health visitor or midwife will be able to show you how to hold your baby using a carrier. Read the instructions provided by the manufacturer carefully for guidance on how to use the specific baby carrier safely.

Nappy changing bag. You’ll need one that will fit all the things you need when you’re away from home with your baby. Changing bags come in designs that range from functional to fashionable. You might prefer one that is obviously a baby changing bag, or one that could pass as a fashionable handbag or backpack. Consider how many pockets and compartments you want, as well as the overall size, when deciding which bag to purchase.

Sunshade for car windows. Your newborn should be kept out of direct sunlight to protect his or her skin. You might like to cover the back-seat windows of your car with a shade cover to keep your newborn out of the blazing sun.

Travel cot. If you’re planning to travel or take your little one to stay with grandparents, friends or relatives, you might like to have a travel cot so your baby can sleep comfortably and safely where you’re staying. Check that the travel cot you’re considering meets the latest safety standards.

Portable changing mat. A portable changing mat can help ensure you have somewhere clean for those impromptu nappy changes. The pads usually roll up quite compactly, so they fit in most changing bags.

Nappy disposal bags. These are great for having somewhere to store your baby’s dirty nappies until you can find a suitable waste bin.

□ Pushchair mosquito net. Many pushchairs come with a rain cover (although if not, you can buy a universal one), but a mosquito net is another great extra for keeping mosquitos and other biting insects away from your baby when you’re out in the open.

Baby blankets. A baby blanket is a thin, multi-purpose blanket that often comes in packs of two or more. These versatile blankets can be used to wrap your infant in for a little extra warmth while you’re taking your newborn out to the car, or work as a nursing cover or burp cloth. You could even use one as an impromptu play mat when you’re out and about.

Baby Health and Safety Checklist

It’s good to have some health and safety essentials at home, both for preventing accidents and injuries and in case you need to take your child’s temperature or put a sticking plaster on a small scratch.

Of course, nothing in your first aid cabinet can match the healing power of your ‘make-it-better kiss’, but – just to be on the safe side – here are some basic items to have at home:

First-aid kit. You'll want to have basic items at home like a baby thermometer, tweezers, sticking plasters, antiseptic wipes, bandages and basic medicines all in one place in your baby first aid kit. You might want to keep another first-aid kit in the car so you have some of these essentials when you’re on the go as well.

Nasal aspirator. This can help gently remove mucus from your baby’s nose.

Baby nail scissors or clippers. If your baby grows (or is born with) long nails, you’ll need to trim them to prevent self-inflicted scratches. Baby nail scissors have rounded ends to prevent accidental injuries. If you’re not comfortable using scissors on your baby’s nails, try filing them down with an emery board instead.

Soft-bristled hairbrush. Even if your baby doesn’t have much hair, a brush can help loosen scales if your newborn ends up with cradle cap.

Sunscreen. Generally speaking, your little one should be kept out of direct sunlight for at least the first six months. Even when your baby is older, sun exposure should be kept to a minimum, especially in the summer between 11 am and 3 pm. However, a little sunscreen (with a sun protection factor of at least 30) may be applied to any small, exposed areas like the face and hands if adequate clothing and/or shade isn't available.

Gentle detergent. This can be used to wash all of your newborn’s clothes and bedding for the first few months. If your baby’s skin shows any signs of irritation, you can try a hypoallergenic detergent, perhaps one designed especially for babies.

Babyproofing accessories. Although your newborn won’t be independently moving around for a while, you may want to tackle some babyproofing chores – like fitting baby gates, adding corner guards and installing childproof locks on low cupboards and doors – ahead of time.

The Bottom Line

Preparing for the arrival of your newborn can be both fun and exhausting. By working your way through this checklist, you’ll be sure to have all the things you’ll need for your newborn baby. But there’s one essential ingredient for a happy baby that you won’t find on this checklist because you probably have an unlimited supply of it already – the love and affection that’s sure to surround your little one as you watch and help him or her grow and develop over the weeks, months and years ahead. Preparing for your baby can be lots of fun, but it has nothing on how much fun you’ll be having once your baby is finally here. There’s so much to look forward to!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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