What a Baby Needs: A Minimalist Approach

by Kathryn

A common question from expecting parents is “what do I need to get for baby?”  I know I asked it when I was pregnant with my first child and again with my second, and even my third.  The answer changed for me with each pregnancy. Not because I already had everything, but because I realized I needed less.  I realized that my babies really had very few needs, a place to sleep, something to eat, clothes and diapers to wear, and to learn and explore.  I also discovered that by attachment parenting I didn’t need as many materialistic things to care for my infants.

A Place to Sleep

The most popular choice is in a crib.  I chose to exclusively co-sleep with my first two daughters.  We did not own a crib. I did a lot of research about infant sleep and how to co-sleep safely. By co-sleeping I saved my sanity with a high maintenance baby. My third daughter needed to nap in a crib because she rolled around so much in her sleep, but I did not have the budget for a new crib.  We did not want to purchase a used crib due to safety concerns, so we chose a mini crib for her.  These are small enough to fit through a doorway, but has a multi-height mattress to accommodate different ages (unlike a bassinet). This was not only cheaper, but smaller, easier to store, and more versatile.

Something to Eat

Feeding a baby can involve lots of items or very few.  With my first daughter we had trouble nursing.  I had several types of bottles and nipples, bottle brushes, formula, several breast pumps (and all their pieces), tubing for at the breast supplementation, cups, syringes, ice packs and coolers, and bags to carry it all. Breastfeeding went more smoothly with my second and third daughters and now my only baby feeding paraphernalia are nursing pads.

Once my girls starts solids I like to have a high chair, although they sit on my lap and eat from my plate most often.  Practicing baby-led solids meant I did not need any special equipment for making pureed baby food, or spend the money on expensive jar food. My daughters all prefer to feed themselves when we start solids and can effectively use utensils and eat without a mess by the time they reach their first year.

Something to Wear

I needed fewer clothes for my first two daughters.  My third daughter is a dirt magnet and loves to play in her food and needs to be changed a few times a day.  We also use more clothes in cold weather because we layer.  Because she was a winter baby I ended up using 4-8 pairs of onesies and socks, a coat, a pair of Robeez shoes,  4-8 play outfits, and 1-2 dress up outfits. This allows me to do laundry once or twice a week without having a mountain build up or running short.

Diapering with disposables can be easy and we started out with disposables and a changing table set up with my first. I prefer cloth and have tried just about every kind.  My personal favorite diapers are flats and one size covers because I can use the same covers and diapers from the newborn stage to toddlerhood with my youngest, potty training for my preschooler, and overnight diapering for all of them including my 5 year old.  I find 4-6 covers and 2 dozen diapers is plenty for all three girls. I have since passed along the changing table.  New babies are easier to change on top of a diaper on the bed, and there is no chance for my wiggly toddlers to fall off the bathroom floor.

Learning and Growing

All of my children have had strong needs to be close by a caregiver the majority of the time.  I have chosen to fill that need through baby wearing.  My first daughter would cry frantically unless she was held. I wear my babies almost exclusively for the first few months. Once they start sitting and crawling they start using a few basic toys.  My daughters have been happy during their first year or so with blocks, a stacking ring, a doll and some books.  (Although my youngest loves to tear books right now!) Of course they also love to explore the house and yard, and to be included in the day to day tasks.  My nine month old currently loves to “help” me in the kitchen with a spoon and a cup or pan to bang and roll.

I started out as a new parent overwhelmed by all the things I thought I would need for a baby, but after having three I’ve realized that the needs of babies are straightforward and don’t require a lot of items.  My parenting style makes the biggest in the amount of stuff required during the first year or two.  I am very glad to have chosen to practice attachment parenting both for the tangible and intangible benefits, not only do I get more baby snuggles, and a  close connection to my children but it also meshes well with my minimalist life style.