Essentials for Baby

Debra Frick

With so many new mothers facing hard times these days and with all the new gadgets and gear out there, I thought I would give a basic list as to what is really needed for your new baby and what is just plain fluff that you probably won't use. Now if you want the latest in baby gear, this article is not for you. But if this latest bundle of joy was unexpected or you are having hard times, here is a rock bottom list of things you will need to get by. I am not saying that having some of the fun stuff is wrong but leave that kind of stuff for gifts for your baby shower.


For those single moms or moms facing hard financial times, I will also give you some ideas of where you can get some stuff for free or low cost and how to make some of the things you will need. Even if you don't know how to sew or don't think you can, there are lots of easy things you can make for your baby that will save you time and money.

Cribs And Car Seats

Your two biggest expenses will be a crib and a car seat. Now if you have the money, you can always buy these two items second hand. But what if you just don't have the money? First, see if there is anyone you know that has one that you can borrow. Put out the word with family and friends. Put a notice up at church that you need a crib to borrow and that you will take excellent care of it. Go to your local freecycle site and try to freecycle one.


In my home town, the local chapter of Planned Parenthood has a give away day where mothers have donated items for babies and they are given to local moms in need. You can also contact your local social service agency to find out what resources are available to you. But what if you don't have anything like that in your home town? Well let's get down to basics: what is a crib but a box with a bed inside. A large plastic tub lined with a soft quilt can be used as a baby bed. I am not saying forever, just until you can get a crib. You could also use a large basket. Check your local thrift stores for bargains and even if it is not pretty, remember that a coat of paint can work wonders on that ugly but functional crib you found for next to nothing. Now, what about a car seat? Most hospitals now days won't let you leave the hospital without one. Well if you don't drive, you can always walk your baby home in a stroller but most hospitals do have car seats for loan for 90 days and some even have donated car seats. Ask at the hospital where you are to have your baby. Again ask neighbors and friends if they have an old one you can borrow.



One good thing about babies is that they grow quickly and I mean they can grow out of newborn clothes in a matter of weeks. Again Freecycle is a great way to get baby clothes and if you have a large amount of friends with babies, have a baby clothes swap. You can also put up a notice at your local supermarket that you are in need of clothes for your baby, you would be surprised at how many moms will call and have things for you to pick up.

What Else You Will Need

Ok we have taken care of the baby's bed, car seat and clothing but what about the mountain of other things that you think you need. Well garage sales are a great place to pick up baby items that you will need. You will be surprised at how cheap you can pick these things up. Most moms' have more than they need in the beginning and realize pretty quickly that they need to thin things out a little.


I have bought brand new baby clothes that have never been worn for as little as a dollar or two. Everything you buy second hand should be washed in bleach and cleaned thoroughly. Most thrift stores only sell clean items but they have been know to sell really badly stained and dirty clothes so make sure you clean everything well.

Here is a basic list of needed Baby items and some ideas on where to get them:

Breast Feeding Mom

  • Nursing Pads: Make your own these are just padded squares that you tuck in your bra for leaks. An old receiving blanket cut into squares and then two of them hand sewn together make for a nice pad that can be washed and dried and used again. Your sewing does not have to be perfect no one is going to see it.
  • Breast Pump: Contact the La Leche league these ladies are a support group for nursing mothers and they have pumps that they give away and sometimes rent. They also have lots of good information about breast feeding. Contact your local health department for contact information.
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  • 6-8 bottles these can be bought at any dollar store or most thrift stores bag them and sell them pretty cheaply. Wash in a mild solution of bleach or run through your dishwasher. I would be very careful about reusing old nipples; you need to check them and if they are gummy or hard throw them away and replace with new. Even your local grocery store sells these for about $2.00.
  • Nursing pillow: Any oval shaped pillow will do. You can buy these at a thrift stores or garage sales and recover with an old pillow case. Slide the pillow in and sew closed on the bottom.
  • 6 bibs now these can be made from washcloths. You can buy a whole package of these at Walmart for about 4-6 dollars for a dozen. In doing a search on the internet you can find directions (patterns) for making these.

Bottle Feeding Mom

  • 10-12 Bottles rings and nipples
  • Formula: Now chances are your baby will go through several changes of formula before the right one is found. I recommend that if you qualify you sign up for WIC. (Woman Infant Children) This is a supplemental food program that will supply you with free formula for your baby and if your doctor changes your baby's formula a lot this program can help you. They also help nursing mothers with food for themselves.

Additional Needs

  • Baby bathing supplies: Shampoo, baby wash, powder, Lotion All of these can be bought at your local dollar store. Put in a basket next to your sink and your all set. Now moms from my generation did not have pretty plastic baby bathtubs we used the sink in our kitchen or a bathroom to bathe our babies. You can dilute baby shampoo and liquid soap to make it last longer. (Editor's Note: Put clean towels down in the sink for a little padding)
  • Diapers: Now I know this is going to be a shocker but cloth diapers are less expensive in the long run than Pampers. On the internet, I found a wonderful site with patterns for making your own and ways to reuse such things as receiving blankets and flannel shirts for making them out of. She also has links to sites to make covers for those diapers out of old sweaters. Check this site out, I think you will be really pleased.

  • If you can get your hands on a sewing machine for a couple of hours with a friend who took home, you should be able to make these up in no time. Here is another site with diaper soakers made out of old sweaters. Diaper soakers are covers for your diapers.

  • Diaper Wipes: Yes, you can make these too, I have seen tips on making your own wipes right here on ThriftyFun. Just go up to the search for answers box and type in Baby Wipes.
  • First Aid supplies: Cotton balls, Alcohol, thermometer, Q-tips and a bulb syringe. Again most of this can be bought at your local dollar store and the hospital where you deliver will give you the bulb syringe that they used for your baby in the nursery. If by some chance they don't, ask for it, believe me it will be on your bill for the hospital. As a matter of fact, make sure you take all supplies that you can, you will be billed for them and by rights are yours. As for the over the counter meds that your little one might need, ask your doctor for samples, most get them free from the drug companies and love to give them away.

I hope you have a happy and healthy baby and that these suggestions help you.

Editor's Note: Be careful with secondhand items as the standards have changed over the years. Many older toys are no longer considered safe because reasons like detatchable parts or lead based paint. Older cribs can have slats that are too wide and can cause the baby's head to get caught. Carseats can be missing essential pieces and could let you down in an emergency. Be sure you carefully inspect and research recalls on any items that you are given or purchase secondhand.

Here is the link to the homemade baby wipes and a "boppy" pillow. There is also a great deal of general parenting advice here on ThriftyFun.

About The Author: Debra Frick is a mother of 5 and a grandmother to 8 grandsons and one granddaughter. She is a published author and poetress. Recycling and saving money are her passions. She also loves crocheting and cooking. She is also a pet rescue volunteer and has many pets of her own.

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August 1, 20070 found this helpful

Don't forget about baby sheets - you can make your own out of recycled sheets, or fabric, using the pattern from this website:

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August 1, 20070 found this helpful

When my sister, Rolene, was born in the winter of 1951 in Johannesburg, my parents could not immediately afford a crib or a cot. So the baby slept in her little enammel baby bath for some time. This worked quite well, as she was so small - 5 lbs 3 ounces at birth. Rolene died of broncho-pneumonia in July 1952 in Johannesburg, aged 11 months.

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August 2, 20070 found this helpful

visit and see in your hometown if some one is giving away items for free or selling them at a really cheap price. I use it everyday. or try to see if there is one in your area

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By Heather (Guest Post)
August 3, 20070 found this helpful

I have to say I was very lucky and got a huge baby shower with almost everything I needed. But when it comes to choosing a crib, there is one suggestion I do have. If you are buying a new crib or even a second hand one, buy a convertabile one. This is the crib that goes to a toddler bed. In the long run it will save you from having to buy another bed once your child grows out of their crib.

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August 4, 20070 found this helpful

my dad cut my sisters crib into a toddler bed when she was little. I am not sure what he did but I wouldn't think it would be to hard .however if one chose to do this make sure all edges are sanded so the child doesn't get hurt

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By Julie (Guest Post)
August 9, 20070 found this helpful

One important comment, Please DO NOT bleach used newborn clothes! Remember this is going to be on your new baby's delicate skin and could seriously irritate the baby. Washing in Hot water w/a very gentle/mild baby detergent or very reduced regular detergent should do the job well.

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By Mary (Guest Post)
December 15, 20070 found this helpful

I agree, to check craigslist if you want to look at local deals. There is also a great new auction site for moms, with lots of great deals on baby clothes and other essentials - Hope that helps!

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By Dr Sarika Patil (Guest Post)
May 12, 20080 found this helpful

Please send complete hospital checklist for mothers.

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