I'm going the other way, with a list of items you can do without - or at the very least buy at a later date when you know they're definitely going to be used.
Some people want or need to parent frugally, others want to go as environmentally friendly as possible - or perhaps both! Anyway hope this helps.
1. Baby Bath - Many people already have a perfect sized baby bath. One that is easy to drain, comfortable standing height and ready plumbed in - yep the sink. Baby baths need draining one way or another - if you use them in the big bath, you then have to lean over the bath sides to wash a small slippery baby. If you move them out of the bath, you need to carry a bath full of water somewhere, then back for emptying! The sink can be a lot easier.
Another option (usually the favourite from baby's point of view) is to bathe/shower with baby; if you have a partner who would enjoy some 1-2-1 time with baby, this can be a perfect opportunity. Heat and contact release oxytocin - which promotes good feelings and bonding.
Lastly a cheaper option than a dedicated baby bath is a washing up bowl - no built in drainage, but sit in the bath and tip it out when finished.
2. Formula - Many parents who plan to breastfeed, feel they need to buy infant formula "just in case". You don't. If a breastmilk substitute is required for medical reasons shortly after birth - this is provided by all hospitals in the UK. Once you get home, or if you plan a homebirth - every supermarket, chemist, any numerous other places sell it if needed. The other thing is if you have a bad night, mums report having formula on hand can be more "tempting", by the time the next day comes and they could go an buy some, they've changed their mind!
A more environmentally and pocket friendly option is milk donated from another breastfeeding mother (so it's same species rather than modified cow's milk) There is lots of information online about milk sharing - a good starting point is this FAQ, and also this. Details about how to flash pasteurise breastmilk at home can be found here
3. Bottles & Teats - Logically it appears to make sense that if you plan to use bottles at some point, you might as well add them to the baby list of things to buy when pregnant. Not really so...
Firstly some mums never use a bottle - even if they planned to! They move from breast to something like the doidy cup or a soft spout transitional cup such as this (Free of bisphenol-a (BPA), lead, PVC, nitrosamines, phthalates, melamine etc).
Even if you decide to use bottles, not all bottles suit all babies! New bottles are released all the time, existing ones improved - you may want a different one when the times comes to use it. If you've already bought a pack of 6/8 bottles it can be an expensive waste - at least if the need arises you can try a single first.
If you just want them to store breatmilk you can buy cheaper breastmilk storage bottles or bags.
4. Breast pump - This seems to always make the essentials list with the assumption all mums will express at some point so someone else can feed the baby, and for some mums who are returning to work etc they may know in advance they want a pump to build a stash etc. Other mums never end up using a pump - they may hand expressing works better for them, or find it works out easier for mum to just feed. That's not to say others can't help out with baby, but it may be more convenient for them to nip baby back to mum for feeding when required. Ultimately if you do decide you want one, the shops will still sell them then, and like bottles new pumps can hit the market.
In terms of buying second hand breastpumps, it's important to ensure they are is a CLOSED system - this means it is sealed to protect breastmilk reaching parts that cannot be adequately cleaned (which would be unhygenic for future users).
Medela systems are NOT closed as you can read here, and so I wouldn't advocate buying/selling one second hand.
5. Bottle warmer - When using breastmilk substitutes guidance is now to make each bottle fresh, so I think this makes a bottle warmer pretty pointless. Even if warming breastmilk (which is fine at room temperature) a couple of minutes stood in warm water and job done without an appliance that needs regularly de-scaling and takes up counter space.
6. Nipple creams/ointments and nipple shields - Something else that can seem like a good idea just in case, but I have to wonder how many tubes get thrown away unopened if mum never has cause to use it. Whilst this seems to go hand in hand with the notion everyone gets sore/painful nipples when they start feeding, this isn't true either.
Some nipple creams can contain a whole host of ingredients that you may not want baby ingesting eg Kamillosan contains:
"Extracts of chamomile 10.5% w/w standardised to provide 0.01% L-a-bisabolol. Other ingredients include maize oil, purified lanolin, yellow soft paraffin, beeswax, emulsifying wax and approved preservative (mixture of esters p-hydroxybenzoic acid)"Yum!
And although Lansinoh, a pure lanolin ointment state:
"In the over 20 years that Lansinoh has been available, the company is not aware of a single documented case of an allergic reaction to Lansinoh HPA Lanolin. However, that does not mean that someone somewhere could have a possible reaction."They clearly don't class all the comments online discussing reaction as "documented cases", and in practice I have seen thrush type symptoms (burning/itching) following use that has ceased when Lansinoh did, whether repeat coincidence or not - why buy until you need? Midwives in the UK will also often give you samples of nipple ointment if required.
7. Nappy cream - Very similar reasoning to the nipple cream. Neither of my children ever had any sort of rash on their nether regions and thus the tube of just in case cream (with my first) remained unopened. Even if your baby does get a rash, what type of rash may influence your choice of which cream to use and you might want something different to what you have!
8. Steriliser - Many never question whether they will need a steriliser, it's assumed essential. But it is really?
Sterilising is an old practice, and many nowadays are questioning whether it is required at all.
In the US & Canada, paediatricians like Dr Flanders now recommend sterilising before first use, following which a thorough wash with hot soapy water is adequate (having a Google this seems quite common US guidance)
A study entitled: Cleaning and sterilisation of infant feeding equipment : a systematic review found:
"National guidelines from six countries demonstrated variation and lack of evidence to support current guidance. Manufacturers did not report evidence of effectiveness to support their recommendations. Nine studies were identified; eight conducted between 1962 and 1985 and one in 1997. All had methodological weaknesses. Hand-washing was identified as fundamentally important."The study goes on to say:
Authors of several of the included studies suggested that the ‘clean’ (washed with hot soapy water and rinsed with hot running water) method is a safe alternative to traditional ‘sterilisation’ techniques, provided the safety of the water is assured. However, three studies found higher numbers of organisms on teats, suggesting that they are more difﬁcult to clean effectively than bottles. Gatherer indicated that bacteriology results were excellent using either thorough cleaning or sterilisation; this was attributed to the education provided for mothersand
"Use of dishwashers has been implicated in the release of plasticisers following a relatively small number of washes"What the study also highlights is there is a distinct lack of evidence as to what is "optimum". If using chemical cleaners should they be rinsed? Should items be dried or left to try. Dishwashers clearly aren't ideal for plastic although of course glass bottles are an option if they are required - what is the difference in bacteria levels between plastic and glass? Is a bottle brush a good idea? Logically yes it helps reach inside teats etc, yet what bacteria do these harbour and what are bacterial counts with and without?
As the review above states, what is being cleaned ie a teat v cup makes a difference and also what substance is used ie breastmilk or substitutes is also likely to be significant. Breastmilk is antibacterial whereas substitutes promote bacteria growth, and furthermore infants not receiving breastmilk are at increased risk of diarrhoeal disease.
Indeed a study examining diahorreal disease found:
"After adjustment for confounders, breastfeeding was associated with significantly less diarrhoeal disease. Associations were striking even in infants aged ≥ 6 months. They did not vary by social class, but were greater in those living in rented council accommodation and in more crowded households."and
"In formula-fed infants, there was significantly more diarrhoeal disease in those not sterilising bottles/teats with steam or chemicals."Given how much money must be generated from the sale of sterilising equipment, do you not think someone might have bothered to confirm what's actually the most effective way of doing things?
(however how well the bottles were hand washed appropriately was not measured)
If you want to sterilise and use sterilising tablets - any glass bowl will do, no special equipment required. Ditto boiling in a pan of water.
If you breastfeed you may find you never need to sterilise anything!
9. Pram/Travel System - The trouble with prams is that unless you buy right at the top end of the price range, it's really difficult to find the perfect pram from newborn to toddler. Newborns need to go flat, so a carry cot you can attach, a lie flat option or the ability to attach a carseat is important.
The latter sounds practical but in practice they can be heavy to lift on to the pram base, and often fiddly to clip and unclip. The other big downside to these systems is they are often really heavy and cumbersome - ok for school runs and long walks, PITA for throwing in and out of a car boot (after you've checked they actually fit!) A carry cot may also only be suitable for just a few months, before baby needs to switch.
Evidence also suggests young infants should face the parent - often prams do this with the carseat attached, before switching to front facing as they become older. As these are typically more expensive, saving money on a carrycot or the function to allow a carseat to attach can be a good option for some. The cheapest rearfacing I could find was this - but if you know of others please share.
Another option is to ditch the pram idea for a tiny baby and use a really good baby carrier or sling - fraction of the price (even more so if you get second hand as there is a large market - some people buy oodles and sell them on barely used). If you get something like a wrap for a tiny baby, you can use it indoors as well as out, giving you hands free to eat etc! You can tie it on in a morning and lift the baby in and out as required whilst leaving it in place (including during car journeys etc) Tiny babies love being snuggled close, which means they're happy - and you can negotiate the shops without wheels! (which in busy clothing shops or suchlike with narrow aisles between racks can be more of a bonus than you realise.)
Even if you want to add say a pouch sling to your collection for easy on and off carries, it's still cheaper than a high tech pram. Some mums even make their own!
As baby gets older although you may want to change your sling for something perfect for a heavier baby, perhaps so you can wear them on your back and cook safely etc, again it's cheaper than wheels. But if you do want pushability as they get heavier, you can then opt for a light weight buggy that's significantly cheaper and lighter than something suitable from birth.
10. Breastfeeding cushion/pillow - Honestly most are pants, they make feeding more difficult and can be incredibly restricting if you don't feel comfortable feeding without it.
11. Special breastfeeding clothes - Whilst they're an option if you want, they're really not essential. Milk Chic is a site dedicated to finding breastfeeding friendly clothes on the highstreet, with lots of tips and tricks about how to feed in different items. From this you may well find loads in your old wardrobe that is easy and convenient to feed in.
If you feel conscious of your tummy, a simple elastic "boob tube" slipped down to your waist, can help you feel covered even if you lift your top to feed, and again save on purpose made clothes. If you don't have one, you could make one here - or you can buy one made for the job called a bellyband here
12. Cot/Moses Basket/Crib - Some parents think all the above are required. Moses basket for downstairs, crib for upstairs when small, progressing to a cot. Whether you ditch all of the above or slim things down, is really a matter of personal preference.
Some breastfeeding mums choose to bed share - wear the sling during the day and none of the above are required. You can add a bedside guard like this if desired.
Another option is a cot that sits snug next to your bed, so you can have the benefits of co-sleeping ie baby is arms reach, whilst having your own "sleep space". Not having to sit up, lean over, retrieve baby, feed, try and lower them back into basket/crib (which in young babies triggers their startle or Moro reflex) however many times a night is a real bonus when you're living it! You can buy special cots for this purpose such as this, and this at a snip of the price but only has two height levels (so check suitability) - but there are also tutorials online as to how you can adapt other height adjusting cots to suit, by matching matress height, removing a side and securing to the bed.
However you sleep it is important to ensure there are no gaps baby could become trapped or wedged down, and that there is no possibility of anything shifting to create a gap. More information available here.
13. All associated bedding for above - OK so unless bed sharing and you switch your own bedding to sheets and blankets, you will probably need some dedicated bedding for baby at night; but kitting out even one cot is cheaper than cot, crib, moses basket and pram. Don't forget that as well as the fitted and loose sheet, you need numerous blankets for babies if they're in prams or sleeping in a cot/basket day as well as night. You need several sets of each too due to sickness/nappy leakages etc and if using natural fabrics as recommended can quickly add up cost wise. Of course if you're frugal and talented you can knit your own!
14. Lots of baby toiletries - The section is huge, but some are now questioning longer term links with health.
To read more about what's worth avoiding and alternatives this is a helpful page.
Guidance in generally that most things shouldn't be used on newborns who have thinner more porous skin than an older baby or adult. Some parents use virgin coconut oil for both bathing/moisturising afterwards - it's not the cheapest thing in the world but a little does go a long way when warmed on the skin. Otherwise, plain old tap water works just fine!
15. A special "baby bag" - If you're breastfeeding you may find all you need to carry is a spare nappy, no need to carry around everything required to prepare substitutes safely. Even if you want to take water wipes, a change of clothes and a nappy, many bags can fit this in easily, with different compartments for if you're using reusable nappies. If you end up using formula and need a bag with dedicated thermal pockets and big enough to fit in formula, water, bottles, teats (for as many feeds as will be required when out) bibs etc you could again get one if needed.
16. A swing, rocker or bouncy chair - The reality 98% of all young babies surveyed preferred a sling ;) But seriously, it's impossible to know what your baby will like before they arrive. Some hate a sideways rocking motion whilst others love it, ditto swings and bouncy chairs. If you wait until baby arrives you can at least try them out in it and also evaluate how much you would actually use it.
Again a good reason to wait until needed is to get maximum use - some bouncy chairs are only suitable up to 6-9 months of age eg this is six months. So if baby is 4-5 months before happy to even sit in it, it has a very short usage. Others such as the Baby Bjorn at least can be adjusted into a chair for a child up to two, so if you did decide it an essential with an older baby, check out how long you will be able to use it for.
17. Bibs - Whilst at some point most people will probably pop a bib on their baby, small babies don't always need them. Whilst some posset regularly, others like my first never do (nor did she drool) and so lots of "essential" bibs were never worn. Again it's worth buying if/when you need as what sort of bib is more appropriate again changes with age - tiny baby ones are, well, tiny and often v soft if just catching milk. For an older baby or one eating solids you may want something with sleeves or that you ensure will protect clothes well.
18. Muslin Cloths - I know many people states these as invaluable, suitable for over shoulder burping plus loads of other uses. Yet I didn't use them at all with my first, they just sat in a drawer. As she wasn't a sicky baby I never needed anything over my shoulder.
18. Baby Brush/Comb - I wondered if I was the only person who didn't consider these essential with a young baby, but a chat on Facebook highlighted many babies had bald heads or very fine hair for quite some time! Some used the soft brush for cradle cap, others the comb for the odd baby with longer hair that became knotty, some found despite having long hair it didn't get knotty and was never brushed (my second has hair like this) so again it would seem more sensible to buy if/as you need. If they're an older baby you may find a toddler brush more useful than the very ultra soft brush designed for use on a tiny baby.
19. Bath Thermometer - Maybe we had a dud one, but the water felt cold at the "approved" temp and baby ended up shivering! Used once then ditched. We have a built in thermometer - the elbow.
20. Nappies - Ok so to many there is no question over whether a nappy is essential, but some mums have the ultimate "eco bot", using a method called "Elimination Communication". Some use nappies part time such as at night or when out, whilst others are completely nappy free - if you're passionate about the environment and/or budget it may be something you want to explore.