What does baby need? - Essential & Non-Essentials for a baby in the first year

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

Things to consider before baby is born or during the first year of life

AUTHOR: Lee Reicheneder

With so much happening and so much to plan for it can be challenging thinking ahead for the task of what you may need for baby over the first few weeks let alone what you may need after those weeks. Therefore, this article hopes to break down what you may need and what some people enjoy or find helpful for them but are not always necessary for every person.

Sleeping Essentials

  • A safe sleeping surface (parents bed with parents following safe bed sharing sleep guidelines, co-sleeper side bed for those who want to bedshare but want a separate sleeping surface for baby, for those who do not want to bedshare you will need to consider getting a bassinet or a cot which complies with Australian safety standards)

  • Mattress for your sleep surface (consider mattress protectors – even disposables can leak)

  • Bedding for your sleeping surface (sheets, blankets – not thick or heavy, no pillows)

Sleeping Non-Essential Considerations

  • Muslin Wraps (some people find their babies are more settled when swaddled)

  • Baby/Infant Sleeping Bags

  • Night light

  • Baby Mobile

  • Calming Music

Changing/Bathing Essentials

  • Square clothes (can be flannel, chux wipes, facewashers, bamboo, or cotton) can be used for bathing baby throughout the first year and even for nappy changes

  • Nappies unless you have chosen to pursue the elimination communication toilet training method from birth (disposable or cloth – there are many different types of both varieties)

  • Towels (normal adult towels that you may already have at home are fine)

  • Cotton Buds

  • Warm Water from your taps

  • A sink (otherwise you can also choose to have baby in the bath or shower with you)

  • Your Fingers (in the first year brushes & combs often aren’t needed – fingers work fine)

  • Laundry Sink or Bucket for dirty laundry including nappies

Changing/Bathing Non-Essential Considerations

  • Change Mat – it should have raised sides if going on a change table (I like foldable flat change mats that I can just wipe or throw in the wash – they are super portable and you can store them pretty much anywhere if not in use)

  • Change Table

  • Corn Starch, Arrowroot Start, Tapioca Starch, or a clay based baby powder

  • A gentle and ideally organic baby wash (this is more a luxury item not essential)

  • A gentle and ideally organic baby oil (or alternative oil you have researched)

  • Nappy Wipes (at times I am lazy and use wipes it’s not essential, cloths work too)

  • Baby Bath

  • Baby Bath Seat

  • Gentle Baby Hair Brush and/or Baby Comb

  • Nappy Bucket

  • Nappy cream in case of nappy rash (get organic where possible – sudo is also great)

Leaving the house Essentials

  • Baby Wrap or Carrier (much more portable and versatile than prams, some are even designed to carry babies up to four years of age comfortably; furthermore, some baby carriers offer multiple pockets to reduce your need to carry bags etc)

  • A bag (sometimes having a bag to throw things in can help – some like nappy bags)

  • A Car seat (ensure it complies with current legislation's and Australian standards – rearward facing is the safest position for the first year of life for most babies and required until 6 months)

Leaving the house Non-Essential Considerations

  • Pram – It is important to check the age and weight guidelines on the pram before purchasing. It is also a good idea to test out prams before purchasing where possible to get an idea of what style and make of pram would work best for you.

  • Rain Cover – If you are considering a pram and it doesn’t have a rain cover of it’s own you could consider looking into a separate rain cover to use with your pram for when it rains.

  • Sun Shades – these can be wonderful but be aware than suction cap sun shades may separate from window if you are in a collision and could pose further hazards; furthermore, some babies simply DON’T LIKE THEM which could make car trips almost unbearable for you.

  • Travel Cot – Some find having a travel cot as a just in case as a piece of mind.

Feeding equipment

If you're breastfeeding Essentials :

If you’re breastfeeding Non-Essential Considerations:

  • Pillow (most pillows work well, but some like to purchase and use ‘feeding pillows’)

  • Breastmilk pump (there are many to choose from of manual and electric varieties)

  • Bottles & Teats

  • Things to Sterilise Bottles

If you're bottle feeding Essentials:

  • Bottles & Teats

  • Things to Sterilise Bottles

  • Expressed Breast Milk (yours or donor milk – check out human milk 4 human babies or one of the many breastmilk banks around Australia) if that’s not possible or wanted formula

If you’re bottle feeding Non-Essential Considerations

  • Bottle Warmer (microwaves, bowl of hot water, or saucepan with water on stove usually work just fine for warming up bottles; however, some find bottle warmers to be easier and in some situations more convenient or portable for them)

The Solids Eating Baby

Babies don’t NEED solids introduced into their diet until they are 6 months old. They get their complete nutritional needs met via breastmilk or formula. However, some babies do start solids earlier at a time that is best for that baby and family. When baby is eating solids, you will find most adult foods can be thrown into a blender and purified then frozen into ice cube trays for many portion size servings to use later. Alternatively, you could use the baby led weaning method which reduces the need for pureed food OR simply buy some of the many baby foods on the market. Organic is always the best option if you are considering buying baby food rather than making it yourself. It is important to be aware that even after the introduction of solids babies should still receive their breastmilk or formula until they are at least 1 year old. After 1 year old formula is generally unnecessary and cows milk (or dairy alternative) is perfectly acceptable as the nutritional benefit of formula generally decreases significantly at this stage of their life. However, if the baby/toddler receives breastmilk instead of formula the nutritional benefit does not decrease like formula, instead it changes to suit your toddlers age and needs with well acknowledged nutritional benefits breastmilk consumption until at least the child’s preschool years (for some longer). You also may want to consider investing in some washable bibs when baby is eating solids. In terms of high chairs, a portable seat that can be attached to any dining room chair or convertible high chair that matches your current dining room set are both great alternatives as they can be used for years and are often much more practical, welcoming, and including than standard high chairs on the market. However, some people do prefer high chairs and that is perfectly okay.


  • A Hat or 2 (if you get them with an elastic cord around the crown then they can be purchased a couple of sizes bigger than bubs head as they can be resized with the cord – this means they can last you months to a year rather than just a few weeks)

  • Overalls ( the beauty of overalls is if you get them in the size up or even 2 or 3 sizes up they can EASILY be adjusted by tying or tightening straps and/or folding the legs – this means they can also last you for most if not all of the first year).

  • Pants that have elastic adjustable waste lines (no joke they can last you forever if you do it right – buy the next size up or few sizes, you can either fold or hem the bottom of the trousers to let down as needed and the adjustable waste means you can make it really small letting them out as they grow – saves money and time – 3 to 5 pairs is best if washing daily, otherwise up to 10 pairs of pants).

  • Legless Bodysuits or Singlets (I recommend 4-7 of the size you are after if you wash daily and up to 14 if you wash weekly – these are great for an extra layer in winter and to be that one and only layer with a nappy when it’s super hot during summer – you can easily get away with getting the next size up for these items as they go under clothes).

  • Socks ( sizes bigger than baby's size is fine – they grow into them and it’s less shopping for you – roughly 3-7 of the size you are after if washing daily and up to 14 if washing weekly)

  • Full body suits with arms, legs, and ideally feet to – or you could mix it up and have some without feet (I recommend 2-5 of the size you are after if you wash daily and 4-10 if you wash weekly – these are awesome for lazy days, to go under/over clothes when it’s really cold etc; you may find that you start using less as they get older so reduce as you go)

  • Jumper or Cardigan (I recommend 2-3 if washing daily and 4-7 if washing weekly – again you can EASILY get away with getting up to 3 sizes bigger than your babies size, it will last you longer and baby will grow into it)

  • Jacket or Thick Winter Onsie/Fullbody suit (I recommend 1-2 if washing daily and up to 4 if washing weekly – if you are getting jackets you can get away with getting up to 3 sizes bigger than your babies size, again it lasts longer and baby grows into it – if you are getting a thick winter onesie I would only get bigger sizes if the onesie has no feet)

Some people like to get booties and shoes, this can be lovely but be aware if your baby is learning to walk any form of booties or shoes can interfere with this developmental milestone. During the first year it is best to keep baby’s feet bare or with socks only unless bub isn’t doing any walking practice.

If your baby scratches a lot it might also be worthwhile considering some mittens for the first few weeks of life at least to help deter baby from hurting itself from scratching.

Toys for the first year Essentials

  • You (singing to baby, cuddling baby, talking to baby, holding baby, & reading to baby)

  • Pots, Pans & Wooden Spoon

  • Scarves & Handkerchiefs in different colours or fabrics

  • Touch & Feel Books

  • Outdoors (set up a blanket outdoors or near a window with you, or even go out for a walk – you will find both of you will locate lots of things to see & do)

  • Household utensils (funnels, tea strainers or sieves, containers, cups, bowls etc)

  • Create a treasure basket and stay with baby while bub explores the basket – this will entertain bub over and over, plus it also helps support bub developmentally by providing the full sensory experience (fill a basket with large hard objects from inside or outside – must be large enough to not swallow, also include: soft objects from inside or outside, put some things with different scents in there if you want – make sure they are baby/child friendly first – you can put the basket away after use and then pull down again later changing items occasionally as needed to keep the treasure basket interesting)

  • Something reflective (you can get reflective wall stickers cheaply on amazon or ebay or you can buy a toy with a non-breakable mirror on it, or simply use a mirror located around the house with supervision and caution to ensure no breaks or injuries occur)

Toys for the first year Non-Essential Considerations

  • Baby Play Mat

  • Baby Play Gym

  • Baby Mobile

  • A set of Baby Links which can be hooked onto a pram, play gym or simply used separately

  • Assorted Baby Rattles

  • Soft Blocks

  • Ring Stacker

  • Soft balls

In General Essentials

  • A place to store babies clothes (this could be some draws, a cupboard, or a box)

  • A place to store babies toys (this could be baskets, boxes, bags or cupboards)

  • Saline Nose Spray (at some point bub will get a cold and that nose will be nasty)

  • Baby Panadol or alternative option for pain/fevers (this could be herbs or homeopathics)

  • Digital Thermometer

  • First Aid Kid (accidents happen – especially when they start sitting, crawling or walking)

  • Safety Gates to block of any unsafe areas

  • Power point outlet covers (enough to cover all exposed outlets)

  • Cupboard and draw latches for any cupboards or draws that you don’t want bub going in

  • Toilet seat lock or cabin lock for the toilet door (babies drown in as little as 5cm of water)

  • Cabin lock for the top of the bathroom door and/or hot water covers for all hot water taps

  • Anti-tip straps or wall anchors for TVs and any heavy furniture

  • Corner covers for furniture that has sharp corners

In General Non Essential Considerations

  • A Bouncer

  • Bulb aspirator for suctioning snot from nose

  • Bath Thermometer

  • Rocking Chair

  • Baby Monitor (unless baby sleeps in a separate room in which case its more essential)

  • Cool Air Humidifier – this can help greatly if bub is congested or you are congested

Related Article: Baby has been earthside 3 months

ARTICLE DISCLAIMER: Lee is a Canberra Doula who also spent over 5 years working in the childcare field as a childcare educator (including as a Room Leader); she holds relevant children's services qualifications alongside Doula qualifications. In addition, Lee holds a wide range of qualifications and training in fields that include but are not limited to trauma and natural therapies. Lee is a proud Aspie woman and mother of 5 children (2 with disabilities). If you have concerns about your child's development, family member's wellbeing or your own wellbeing speak to your Midwife or Doctor. Furthermore, a small commission is made on some of the links provided within these blog articles

#whattobuyforbaby #checklistforbabiesfirstyear #parentinginthefirstyear #whatdoesbabyneed #canberradoula

We hope you have found this post informative and make sure you let us know if there is a topic you would like us to cover in our blogs. If you are interested in learning more and finding out about our Doula Services make sure you get in touch for a FREE initial meet – we’d love to meet you.

~ Blessings Lee your Canberra Doula, Travelling Doula, & Student Energy Healing Practitioner

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