Having a baby can be a big financial stress. Not only are doctor appointments and delivery fees expensive, but all the things you are told that you need to take care of the baby when you get home can add up. The good news is that the majority of the things on most baby registries aren’t actually essential (although they can be very nice!), so with some careful planning, you can easily lighten your financial load.

So what do you really need for the baby? And how can you make it affordable? Here’s a simple way to space out purchases by trimester.

Put some money aside for

  • A doula (if you plan on having one)
  • A photographer (maternity, birth, or newborn). Putting aside money each month can make this priceless opportunity affordable. My birth photos are some of my most prized possessions.
  • You can also register for these things through a universal registry like BabyList.

Ongoing Purchases Made Over the Course of Pregnancy

essential baby gear

Baby Clothes

babies go through A LOT of clothes but you are also going to be doing laundry every day (trust me!) and you are likely going to be gifted clothes more than anything else. Because just like you, friends and relatives can’t resist those tiny outfits.

A common mistake new moms can make is to buy too many “cutie” outfits for the first few months. The photo ops alone can send you rushing to the store, but it’s just not practical. The first few months of life, babies will have lots of diaper blow-outs, spit ups, and milk leaks. You will be changing their diapers up to 12 times a day and changing their outfits multiple times as well.

I recommend sticking to comfortable, breathable cotton clothing (a few basics packs like these is all you need) that are cozy for baby, and easy to change. Infant gowns are also extremely useful for middle of the night changes. And honestly, a sleeping swaddled newborn is swoon-worthy no matter what they are wearing! Then if you really are itching to up the style game, 6-9 months is a great time to get some trendier things.  

Baby Shoes

Shoes can also wait until they are 9-15 months depending on when they start walking. Until they are walking, I recommend sticking to socks paired with this invention that is one of my favorite baby products ever!

Here’s, how to space out the clothing purchases:

Shop the BIG sales. Good annual sales are usually in July and January when companies start trying to clean out their inventory to make way for the upcoming seasons. Take advantages of the big sales and buy seasonal clothes in the next year’s size.  Shop the sales, and then throughout the pregnancy pick up items here and there when the prices are good.

What will you realistically need?

  • Onesies, onesies and more onesies. Avoid buying many of the newborn size because if you have a 9lbs baby they will only wear those for about 5 days! You can always wait and rely on my best friend, Amazon Prime (hello free 2-day shipping!) to get the size you need.
  • Sleepers — a few in each size and always go for zippers over snaps (trust us!).
  • Cotton tops and bottoms with elastic pants especially helpful for the first 6 months. I like the footed ones so you can skip socks altogether.
  • Accessories like socks, headbands, shoes, hats—depending on where you live you might need some seasonal items (beanies, mittens, hats).  Buy them when you see a good price.

Diapers and Wipes

Brace yourself.  You will go through an astounding number of diapers in the first few months of your baby’s life.  This is an ongoing item to keep an eye out for.  If you are planning on disposable diapers, add them to your baby registry starting now, and you can build up a great supply. Use coupons and you can get some packages for a decent price.  Amazon Prime also has some great deals that can be delivered straight to your door on a monthly basis. You can even ask for an Amazon Prime membership as a gift—send this link to your loved one that hates shopping!

You’ll need several big packages of newborn diapers—I like these because they have a cutout for the umbilical cord so it doesn’t get irritated—but don’t overdo it. Babies always tend to outgrow these the fastest, plus a newborn can squeeze into the bigger size if they need to. Stock up on the 1-2 size.  Once you have a good supply of those sizes, just keep an eye on your baby’s growth and fit and move up to size 3 when they are ready.

First Trimester Purchases

stuff you need for baby

Bathtub

Having the right supplies can make the difference between an enjoyable bonding experience or major frustration for mom and baby!  One of my favorite bathtubs is a Puj Baby Tub. These are made from “soft foam that conforms to almost any sink,” so it’s much more comfortable than leaning over the tub when your baby is too floppy to sit up. It’s comfortable for baby, it lays flat for storage, and it’s a hip cool design. I also love the unique Tummy Tub that simulates the mother’s womb and worked like a charm to soothe my babies when they were fussy.

Bath products

Baby’s skin can be pretty sensitive, especially in the newborn phase when they are adjusting to living outside of a warm wet womb and being exposed to continuous air. Some high quality mild soaps can help.

  • Earth Mama Angel Baby — This body wash is detergent-free and mild enough for delicate newborn skin and hair. I actually use it to shave as well.
  • Mustela Newborn Foam Shampoo — This is my favorite newborn shampoo for dealing with cradle cap. It lasts forever (like years!) and has that irresistible new baby smell.

First Aid/Hygiene Supplies

Many companies make baby first aid/hygiene kits. Make sure it has the basics like:

  • Nail clippers
  • Thermometers (digital ear or rectal)
  • Baby brush or comb
  • Cotton balls for cleaning eyes, ears, and nose
  • Petroleum jelly—for rectal thermometer lubrication or circumcision care
  • Gauze
  • Rubbing alcohol—for cleaning thermometers, tweezers, clippers
  • Tylenol or equivalent (only safe after 12 weeks)
  • Snot Sucker — The bulb syringe that comes in most kits is basically useless. I know the snot sucker sounds gross but you don’t actually get snot in your mouth and it works like a charm. You’ll likely become addicted to it!

Nursing Bras

Save some money now while you can kill two birds with one stone. Your breasts will be growing and getting sore and you will likely need a new bra, so if you plan on breastfeeding, a nursing bra is a great idea but keep in mind what fits while pregnant may not fit when your milk comes in.

Get a comfy bra that stretches for now, and you can use it during pregnancy and also after you give birth!  You can buy a larger one later with more support if you need it. Your breasts will constantly change size in the first year after giving birth, depending on how much nursing is happening at a given time. My favorite nursing bra for larger chester moms (like myself) who want REAL support is this one.

Burp Rags  

Buy at least 10 plain and practical ones and expect to receive plenty cutesy ones as gifts too. You’ll want to keep these all around the house, always at arm’s reach for spit up, breast leaks, and diaper explosions.

Binkies and clips  

If you plan on using a pacifier, try a few different kinds since your baby might gravitate towards certain styles. Here is a non-toxic, chemical free option to start off with that my kids ADORED. The only other pacifier that actually stayed in my baby’s mouths were these. I’ve also heard great things about these animal pacis that help baby find a binky during nap time or at night. They come in every type of animal; I’m partial to the longhorn and penguin!

Second Trimester Purchases  baby gear

Nursing Cover  

If you plan on breastfeeding, you may want to just take it easy for the first month or so (in fact, I insist that you do!).  This will be a critical time for you and your baby to get the hang of nursing.  You can walk around in a robe for a while and not worry about modesty or being stressed while you are figuring things out.  When you feel ready to venture out into the world, a good nursing cover might make you more comfortable.  Covered Goods has a great option that also serves as a car seat cover, infinity scarf, and grocery cart cover.

Breastfeeding Supplies  

You will need a few things to ease your way into the wonderful (and sometimes painful!) world of breastfeeding.

  • You’ll want some good quality nipple cream to keep near your bed, in your purse, in the nursery, basically everywhere! Remember your baby will be putting his mouth here, so make sure it’s safe for him to ingest. Earth Mama Angel Baby makes an organic nipple butter. And many people swear by lanolin nipple salve as well.
  • Booby tubes can be heated up or chilled for soothing purposes if you are engorged or getting blocked ducts.  
  • Breast pads. Buy disposable or reusable. My favorite reusable ones are these, which look enormous but they keep your nipples warm (very important in the winter or well air conditioned buildings) and cover the whole breast so you can avoid the often noticeable ring around your nipple from typical breast pads. You will need to buy lanolin wash and at least two pairs so you have one pair to wear while the other is being cleaned. Like all wool products they are self cleaning so don’t need to be washed very often.
  • I didn’t know before I became a mom that the breast you are not currently nursing on also leaks milk! This is my all time most recommended product. Not only does it protect you from soaking yourself, it also allows you to save every precious drop of breastmilk. I built up an entire freezer stash without ever pumping using this thing. Just trust me, every mom I tell about it ends up thanking me!

Baby Wrap or carrier  

The first three months are a great time to use a baby carrier. Lots of babies are restless sleepers and just seem to do better when they are being held.  That can be a recipe for one tired momma…who is already exhausted.  A good quality baby carrier can be a life saver when you just need a break and want some hands-free moments to make some food, go for a walk, or tend to another child.  And as a bonus, if your baby gets used to a carrier early on, they are more likely to be happy in there as they get older.  You can take them on hikes and walks, and shopping trips all over town.  It’s a fun bonding time.  Solly Baby makes a great wrap, and Ergo and Boba are both popular carriers.

Baby Monitor  

Oh how I wish I was smart enough to get a video monitor my first time around as a mom. I knew the baby was not making noise, but what if the blanket is over his head? Was he breathing? If he was crying, was his arm or leg stuck in the crib somehow? I spent so many hours sneaking back to the baby’s room on a creaky floor, trying to quietly open the door to peek at him and would wake him up accidentally about 80% of the time.  Soooo frustrating!  A video monitor can give you peace of mind that everything is okay, and the baby is comfortable and safe.  These are some popular ones—make sure you get one that pans and tilts so you can continue using it once baby is out of the crib and moving around the room.

Baby Blankets

You’ll want a good stash of these, and luckily this is one of the most common baby gifts, especially from grandma.  

  • Swaddling blankets can be vital in the first 3 months. Depending on the month your baby is due, you’ll want to get some lightweight breathable fabric swaddled, and also some cotton weave swaddlers.  If you need some warmer stuff, you can swaddled and then layer a heavier fleece or wool blanket on top.  
  • Photo-op blankets are a fun way to document your baby as he grows. Here’s some cute options.
  • If you end up with a baby that can escape swaddles, this one works well even on the wiggliest little ones. At $30, it’s a little pricer than other swaddles but we were able to use it to contain our son until he was 6 months old! Well worth the money spent for extra sleep in return!

Third Trimester Purchases

baby registry list

Diaper Bag  

Want to stay chic and also have a practical bag to carry around as a mom?  Lilly Jade is your answer.  With an option to wear as a backpack (all I do these days) or on your shoulder there are many  styles to choose from, all with designer looks.

Breast Pump  

If you plan on nursing, you’ll also want a good-quality breast pump. Before you purchase one, check with your insurance company to see if they provide them free of charge or at a discounted rate.  I got one free with my last pregnancy and was able to choose from a few options.  You also might want to meet with a lactation consultant first – they are knowledgeable about pumps and how to fit one to your to your body.  You’ll specifically want to make sure the phalanges (the part that’s connected to the cup that your nipples go into) are the right size, and that you can hook everything up comfortably.  I personally like electric pumps best, and a hands-free option is always a plus.

Bottles and Bottle-Washing Supplies  

Many pumps come with storage bottles, or complete bottle sets.  That is always a bonus.  If you are looking for some separately, it’s can be helpful to buy bottles manufactured specifically for nursing moms.  The nipples are shaped more like breasts, and are even made to mimic a real nipple.  Here’s a couple of options.

Make sure that you purchase BPA free bottles and nipples, or even glass bottles, to avoid toxins leaking into milk. Also buy some bottle brushes, and make sure it has a nipple brush attachment.

recovering from baby

Postpartum Supplies for Mom  

I really wish someone had prepared me for recovery after birth. This is a tender time physically and emotionally. The better prepared you are, the smoother recovery can go. Stock up on some self-care items. Things like:

  • Soothing creams and cold compresses to put in your underwear or in your bra
  • Comfortable and extra-absorbent maxi pads
  • Herbal teas
  • Herbal baths

Earth Mama Angel Baby has a postpartum package that I recommend as an awesome gift for a new mom.

Immediately after giving birth, mesh boyshorts that the hospital or your midwife provide will be your best friend. Once you are ready to move past mesh, invest in some comfortable and supportive, yet stylish underwear. Let’s face it, you definitely won’t feel sexy, but grandma panties will only make you feel worse. These high waisted, pooch-hiding options will give you an extra boost when you feel so crummy.

Big Ticket Items and Baby Shower Gifts    

These are the items to put on your baby registry, or hope your parents will chip in for, or that you can get from a group gift at baby showers. If you think you’ll have limited support, start setting aside a bit of money every month to purchase these, wait for a sale, and space them out toward the end of your pregnancy. They are expensive, so do the research, read reviews, and think hard about what things will fit best with your lifestyle and budget.

Crib  

The good news is that the actual crib is not necessary at all, specially if you plan on getting a bassinet or pack and play. It’s recommended to keep the baby in your room for a few months, at least until they start sleeping through the night. More peace of mind and easier access. And once you decide to move them to their own room, a pack n play works just fine (my daughter slept in hers until she was two and I’ve never owned an actual crib). If you are a mom that just knows they definitely want a crib, here are some tips.

  • Do your research. Style is usually important when you are excitedly decorating the nursery, but make sure you check the recalls, that it’s a safe crib, and see what others say about it. In general, you want a fixed side (not the kind that drop down) and slats that are no wider than 1.5″.  
  • You’ll also need a mattress—get a firm one! Be careful with bumper padding as these can lead to suffocation. They do make breathable thin bumpers as a good alternative.

Stroller

This is such a tricky purchase. You can do zillions of hours of research on this, yet sometimes it’s not clear what works best for you until you’ve used the wrong stroller for a while. So think through your lifestyle needs and preferences. Do you love to walk? Perhaps a jogging stroller would work best. Are you a city dweller? Take that into account. Do you really want a sturdy and spacious stroller system complete with car seat? Go for it. Read lots of reviews and make a pro/con list. Ultimately, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t buy the perfect stroller. I personally have been through 5 different kinds with my 3 kiddos. Last piece of advice—splurge on this one. It’s worth it to get what you want, and it will likely last for many many years.

Another idea is to hold off on the stroller purchase for a few months, and use one of these frames that the car seat just clicks into. They are small and lightweight and work well. After a few months when the baby has a little bit more muscle control, you can upgrade to a bigger stroller and take him with you to the store to test some out.

Car Seat  

This was such an exciting purchase for me, I couldn’t wait to install it in my car, and even drove around with it empty while I waited for baby’s arrival. You will need a rear facing car seat for the first 2-3 years of life (each seat has different height/weight recommendations and generally the longer you can keep them rear-facing the safer your child will be). Typically an infant car seat works best up to 12 months, and then when they are bigger, upgrade to a convertible seat that can face both rear and forward. These can last up to 5 years old (again depending on height/weight) so they are long term purchases. I love this one because it fits nicely in smaller cars, like mine. Again, do your research, read reviews, and get shopping!

Noise Machine  

In my opinion, these are GOLD. My babies have always slept much better when there is white noise near the crib. It blocks out all the other random sounds around the house, and also soothes the baby to sleep, as it is apparently similar to what things sounded like inside the womb. This one is the one I used (after trying several duds) and this is an awesome portable/bluetooth option.

Swing

Some babies like them and others don’t. For me, the swing was one of my absolute favorite items for getting a good nap! You don’t need a super expensive one since babies don’t use them all that long but do make sure and get one that plugs in or you will go through batteries like it’s your job!

Bouncer  

Another purchase that is hit and miss. It can be really nice to place the baby in a semi-reclined position to nap or look around when you need your hands free to fold some laundry or make dinner. Some babies love it and some don’t. They are relatively inexpensive, make good registry items and can often be found second hand. I actually kept mine in the bathroom so I could put baby down in it while I showered or even peed!

There you have it!  With a little planning, you can prepare for baby without breaking the bank or losing your sanity.  There’s nothing quite as fun as shopping for babies, so enjoy yourself! Happy shopping!