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What are the real must-haves for a new baby? We want to buy as little as possible.

My wife and I have been hoping to take a very basic approach to buying things for our new baby. We just figure kids – over the long haul – can be so expensive, we’d like to start out the spending at a reasonable clip. But we keep hearing that we have to get a sling or a bouncy hammock gizmo or what have you. Now we’re starting to get anxious. We need a realistic idea about what we need and when we need it to help us get a grip. Help!- Nesting Dad

Dear Nesting Dad,

It is possible to take a truly minimalist approach to a new baby, involving little more than a bit of cloth to wrap the wee thing. If the food comes from your wife’s body and the bed’s yours, there’s just the matter of keeping him warm and dry. You can even avoid diapers if you go for the elimination communication route. However, you may not be inclined to quite this level of austerity.

Aside from the truly basic needs (the aforementioned cloth), there are some modern baby-care items that we consider within the range of “essential.” It is required by law, for example, to have a car seat in order to leave the hospital. But there’s no reason to break the bank. As a very wise woman once said to us, “Newborns are cheap (I mean priceless).”

Here’s what most parents generally consider must-haves:

DIAPERS:

At least a few dozen newborn diapers (newborns can churn through 50+ a week), plenty of wipes, diaper rash cream, and a changing mat.

BED:

Co-sleeper, bassinet or crib and a couple of fitted sheets. If you intend for your baby to be in bed with you, you can skip or postpone the crib buying, but you may want another option for naps or in case co-sleeping is not working for you right away.

CLOTHES:

Hospitals generally provide some very minimal stuff, like a shirt, hat and thin blankets. In addition, you’ll need about half a dozen cotton onesies/sleepers, socks, cotton pants, seasonal clothes like a bunting if necessary, a few cotton receiving/swaddling blankets.

CARE/CLEANING:

Some kind of baby bath (though the baby can bathe with you in the tub if you want); nail clippers (newborns scratch themselves); alcohol and Q-tips for cord care (though some caregivers suggest just leaving it alone until it dries).

FOOD:

If you’re breastfeeding this may not require any purchases; if not, you’ll need bottles and formula.

A BABY MOVER/CARRIER OF SOME KIND:

This can be the car seat with a frame base, a stroller and/or a sling/Baby Bjorn.

Here are some things that may not be crucial, but are popular for good reasons:

A breast pump, changing table, more clothes, baby medical supply kit, diaper disposal, baby monitor, gentle detergent, rocker/glider/nursing chair and/or footstool, nursing pillow, nursing bras, diaper bag, bouncy seat/vibrating seat/swing, swaddler/sleeping bag, a high chair or detachable baby seat.

From there we veer into a different territory. There are too many products to list. We’re talking about gadgets like a white noise machine or a sun visor for the stroller. They may seem excessive, but you never know. Do you live on a construction site in Arizona? Maybe you’ll really want them! Also, sometimes getting chemical-free or organic will be worth the extra few bucks. Everyone’s circumstances and needs are different. That bouncy hammock gizmo you mentioned? It could get you months of uninterrupted dinners, or it may sit empty, taking up space and mocking your waste of $69.99.

If you ask a group of parents what their three most crucial baby products were you’ll get a huge range of answers. Come to think of it, we did ask parents this once, and everyone disagreed: “loved the sling,” “the sling sucked, never used it”; “boppy was great,” “boppy went to the dogs.” So, our advice is to listen to the recommendations, consider whether that product might also work for you and then, if possible, try the thing out before you buy it. You can also go the secondhand route – there are plenty of parents out there who need to unload their “lightly to never used” gizmos.

To wind this up on the crucial and upbeat note we started out with: you’ll be amazed how little you need to get the ball rolling. Half of it can be purchased at a drugstore and the other half at IKEA. And then you may have some cash leftover for the long haul, or at least a few good date nights.

We encourage readers to share their own product opinions in the comments section. A well-phrased pan from a likeminded parent can be all you need to save you a good chunk of cash.

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